[Tagging] Who has the last word over the access tag?

Bert -Araali- Van Opstal bert.araali.afritastic at gmail.com
Mon Apr 26 17:09:30 UTC 2021

I am very happy you come up with this fable, which is not a fable but 
daily truth and practice in many countries.

Especially in Africa we face cases of encroachment and land grabbing on 
a daily basis.  Both by private individuals as by governments or their 
representatives.  OSM wanting or aiming to map the ground truth, not a 
suitable tool at all to prevent or reflect "legal" status, either 
current or historical, enforced or not, applicable or not,  at all.  
More and more OSM is used as a means to "create" ones ground truth, 
incite not only mapping but real world wars, with devastating results.

You can't avoid or invoke this by allowing ground truth to be mapped 
with tags based on observations of human behaviour or interpretations.  
Where does the ground truth end where does it start ?
The presence of a private guard or police man is not physical ground 
truth, without being able to determine if he acts on a legal basis or 
not, is present continuously or not.  Same as the presence of a 
signpost.  The interpretation of the legality can be a difficult matter 
by itself, where only the judiciary process can make viable decisions, 
we should not let a mapper make this decision.

Neither an ownership tag, access tag or other tag can resolve this.  
What could help is that we allow mapping of non-physical or 
deterministic map items like boundaries but also to some extend the 
edges of landuse, but based on some "legal or authoritative" sources. 
The sources could be, by consensus, listed and acknowledged by the 
global or local communities.
Having a consensus about these sources, we could use a prefix or tag to 
confirm if the ground truth we map is unambiguous or not. Allowing us to 
map the physical ground truth but give it context in regard to it's 
current legality,

So in this case, from the point of view of the private owner, we could 
tag the path with access=private and legal=undisputed and 
source:legal=xyz, the signposts as owner=private.
In the current state, with a local government "grabbing" the land as 
access=private;public, legal=disputed and source:legal=xyz;uvw.  The 
signposts being deleted or disused or removed prefix.

Thus we would be able to provide neutral and complete information and 
context, with some short term historic reference (as to the removed 
signposts) and let the map user or data consumer decide how he uses this 
It would be progress for OSM as we now leave it open, incite vandalism, 
mapping and real world wars.


Bert Araali

On 25/04/2021 14:50, Frederik Ramm wrote:
> Hello,
> this is a fable built on a real-world case. Please don't guess what 
> the real-world case behind this is; it doesn't matter. Do me a favour 
> and discuss the fable.
> Let's assume you buy a large plot of land and a nice holiday home 
> somewhere on a pacific island. You travel there regularly and enjoy 
> the beautiful landscaped garden. You put up "Private property - no 
> trespassing" signs and hire a couple of guards to ensure nobody enters 
> your property. Consequently the paths in your garden are mapped in OSM 
> as access=private.
> One day while you are in your home country there is a coup on the 
> pacific island, and the self-proclaimed island government nullifies 
> all foreign land ownership. Your guards go home and someone pulls out 
> the "No trespassing" signs. Random people start enjoying your garden 
> and the local police are watching.
> Let's say this goes on for half a year. The island government has no 
> international backing but they control the island de-facto. You say 
> that the property is still your property no matter what the criminals 
> of the island government say. You take out a one-page ad in the island 
> newspaper saying that the decrees of the island government are null 
> and void and that you will sue anyone who enters your property.
> Still, every day people are walking across your property and the 
> police are waving happily.
> Are the paths in your garden still access=private?
> Bye
> Frederik
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