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Google’s Waze Crowdsourced Traffic and Navigation App is a Hit, But How Does It Impact Privacy, the Law…and Google Maps?

Google’s Waze Crowdsourced Traffic and Navigation App is a Hit, But How Does It Impact Privacy, the Law…and Google Maps?

In a recent report, Stratecast explored some of the early benefits being realized in the automotive market by applying Big Data to optimize how vehicles are designed, manufactured, marketed, sold, financed, serviced, and accessorized, and how they perform on the road.2 Systems and sensors are beginning to embed information obtainable from vehicles into the Internet of Things (IoT). Connected cars equipped with vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology can “talk” with other vehicles, the roadway itself, and various elements of the supply chain, to enhance traffic flow and safety, as well as maintenance and customer care. This also paves the way for driverless cars.

All of these things can enhance the driving (or, as the case may be, non-driving) experience; and all are focused on taking control out of human hands and putting highly advanced machines in charge. Yet, even as this machine-driven future fast approaches, the ability to quickly assimilate and analyze Big Data is also providing new ways for humans to take more control over their on-road experience. One of those ways is Waze, which is now the world’s largest crowdsourced traffic and navigation app, with more than million users in countries. Waze users share real-time roadway and traffic information with the Waze network and each other. By connecting drivers to one another, Waze is creating local driving communities that work together to improve road experiences by helping users avoid accidents, sidestep traffic jams, find the best prices on gasoline, avoid traffic tickets, and find deals at local stores.

Waze, which was launched in Israel, as a competitor to Google Maps and Apple Maps, has so much to offer that Google—whose Google Maps application is the leading traffic and navigation app, and the sixth most widely used smartphone app3—paid $ billion to acquire Waze in June 2013. However, some of the very capabilities that make Waze the most feature-rich, interactive traffic and navigation app also raise questions about its impacts on privacy, law enforcement, and its coexistence with Google Maps. This Stratecast SPIE report discusses key capabilities and benefits of the Waze app, and analyzes those impacts.


  • Introduction1
  • Crowdsourcing Helped Build Waze's First Maps, and Continues Daily
    • User Reports Are the Information Backbone of Waze
    • 200,000 Waze Users are also Map Editors
  • Heavy User Engagement Benefits Waze and its Advertisers
    • Gamification and Social Media Keep Users Engaged and Celebrate Hardcore Users
    • How Waze Gets Paid
  • How Waze Benefits Google
    • Advertising Revenues
    • Technology, Including Data-sharing
    • Private-label, "Craft Brewing" Approach to Market Coverage
    • Pre-emptive Strike versus Facebook and Apple; Decisive Victory Over One-note Apps
    • Ridesharing Service that Could Compete with Uber
  • Waze is a Hot Property-but Faces Serious Challenges and Detractors
    • Waze is Only as Good as its Users and User-Editors, and Feels Too Complex for Some
    • Privacy Implications of Sharing Data with Strangers on the Road
    • Possible Threat to Law Enforcement Officers
  • The Last Word

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