Waze sued for allegedly stealing data from another navigation app

Well I’m not sure how much this had to do with Waze being owned by Google or not but PhantomAlert is suing Waze.

Before the advent of GPS and navigation apps, cartographers sneaked “paper towns” and “trap streets” into their maps—fake points of interest that they used to detect plagiarism. If someone copied their map, it would be easily identifiable through the inclusion of those locations. That same trick has found its way into modern-day mapping systems: A new lawsuit brought against Google and its traffic app Waze cites sham points of interest as evidence that the Google-owned service copied from a competitor’s database.

Apparently these two companies tried to make a deal before Google snapped up Waze and PhantomAlert is alleging that Waze used their database to “boost its profile”.  One of the biggest concerns in the OpenStreetMap community is allowing these intentional mistakes into their database.  Copyright Easter Eggs is well documented on the OSM website.

Copyright Easter Egg, in terms of mapping, is a feature that is drawn in a distinctive way in order to help identify its original author. It may be a nonexistent, or slightly or heavily distorted, map feature, or its name may be wrongly or unusually spelt.

The supposed main purpose of such a feature is to strengthen the author’s case in a copyright dispute. If he can show that his own unique feature appears in the defendant’s work, it is easier to prove that the defendant’s work is a copy of his.

google_logo

Hey look, I got to use the new Google logo already!

Yea so if this is true, PhantomAlert has a pretty good idea that Waze stole their data and it could mean big trouble for Google.  Having a closed database like this opens Waze up to these kinds of lawsuits because they are unable to have the community police the data.  The big question is was this data imported into Waze intentionally or by accident.  I don’t think the latter will get them off the hook but if there was intent it could be costly.  We’ll have to see.  The Waze byline about “outsmarting traffic, together” might not be too smart.

The Story Behind Google Buying Waze

Waze cofounder tells us how his company’s $1 billion sale to Google really went down

The sale was a milestone for Israel’s young but huge startup community: The first Israeli consumer-app company to be bought for over $1 billion. In an instant, the whole “Startup Nation” decided to quit aiming for fast exits and build billion-dollar companies instead.

When Google bought Waze we were all amazed they paid $1B.  Not so much in that we didn’t think Waze was going to sell for $1B1 but that Google needed them.  In the end it was simple for Waze:

What made Google pretty attractive for us that No. 1, the company stayed in Israel. No. 2, we remained with our mission, to help drivers avoid traffic jams.

Well and that $1B was pretty attractive too.  I’m honestly not sure what is going to happen to Waze moving forward.  I still use it daily on my commute.  Waze is partnering with cities to improve traffic results and I know millions of others rely on it for better traffic results than Google Maps or Apple Maps.  But that’s the kicker right?  Questions that come to mind to me are:

  • What’s the incentive to innovate beyond improving traffic results?
  • What’s the status of the maps behind the application, are they being updated?
  • Does Google plan to shut Waze down and “integrate” traffic into Google Maps?
  • Is Waze just another example of supporting a proprietary map only to see it be pulled away from the community?

Google bought Waze over 2 years ago.  We haven’t seen anything new from Waze beyond these “partnering” programs2.  I’ll continue to use Waze for my commuting because it is such a time save but the end game of Waze is probably not benefiting me.

  1. Facebook was going to pull the trigger 

  2. Which I’m not even sure are being pursued anymore