[OSM-talk] Beware Pokemon users

Rod Bera rod at goarem.org
Mon Dec 26 11:36:40 UTC 2016

Hi all,

Thank you Toby for you vigilance.
I do share Clifford's concern about OSM being tweaked/vandalised.

Systematic bias put into the OSM base towards maximising benefits for a
minority of users is a threat.
Especially when the primary interest of these users is not OSM in itself.

Also, to the best of my knowledge, the company behind Pokemon is only
acknowledging Google maps as a source. Not OSM. Therefore those new
users should be redirected to Google mapmaker and left to deal with
subsequent legal issues with that company (the "your data is ours but
trouble is yours" disclaimer by Google).

However, this leaves unaddressed another issue, that of OSM data being
uploaded/copied into google maps. I have myself noticed in several
instances that google maps updated following my own edits into OSM,
especially for features that only myself could be aware of.

So I don't know which process holds here:
1. pokemon directly using (and not acknowledging) OSM data,
2. pokemon using google data with google themselves using OSM data (and
not acknowledging it, whether it comes from google paid people or people
"freely" contributing the google base).

Up to now, leaving aside the legal breach of either ODbL or cc-by-sa
licenses (or both), it could nevertheless be satisfying for us to
believe we were contributing to improve other databases as a side effect
(OSM people working for the benefit of all, even google. Even though
google has not the correctness to abide by licensing). And believe
(which I do myself) that ours is better. But now what makes the strength
of OSM could be used to destroy it.

The phenomenon is not new however: we have seen "biased" edits into OSM
in the past, with some OSM users modifying or deleting other
contributions for personal reasons (political, religious, etc., or mere
competition over stats), and putting their questionable ones instead.
This can always happen, but the procedures and general ethos within our
community can usually deal with this smoothly.

Now we're potentially facing a problem of a completely different
magnitude. One tweet among pokemon-Goers saying -no matter true or not-
that they can capture more creatures by tweeking OSM, and we might end
up with myriads of local difficult-to-detect edits by many users (mostly
new, but we can't rule out "pokemonised" OSM users...).

For those who doubt it this is quite serious. Over time people have come
to rely onto OSM for a number of activities, amongst which navigation or
humanitarian activities (just to name a few I'm engaged in. Landuse
management and environmental science is another).

If our geographical commons are impacted this can translate into loss of
meaningful data, and beyond: waste of time and efficiency, waste of
money, even lives.

Yes, OSM has become as crucial as this for some people.

I believe this issue should be discussed at OSMF level.
We, as a community should investigate and take action to safeguard our
common good.

Maybe I'm worrying too much, that Pokemon-Goers won't in their vast
majority sign up and overwhelm OSM with "inaccurate" data.

But there is a risk.
I've long been aware of it but was confident our community could
overcome. Now I'm not too sure anymore.


On 25/12/16 18:46, Clifford Snow wrote:
> I've been seeing a number of new users adding paths and parks. I deleted
> three "parks" in Tacoma Washington just this morning. One was covering a
> residential area, another was a group of trees behind some houses and
> the third was a vacant lot. The area with the trees might have been an
> attempt to add a landcover feature. But they were all done by the same
> user. None of the changeset comments mentioned pokemon. 
> One user did reply to my welcome message. I had asked him if he was
> mapping as part of a school project. He replied "No, a game I play uses
> path information to generate its data, so I'm uploading my common walk
> paths, getting familiar with OSM and its toolset. Me adding those paths
> is just filling in gaps in that data that others may find useful. Thank
> you for the welcome email! Happy holidays!" His edits were good for a
> new user.
> Since Dec 17th over 20 new people have started mapping in Washington
> State. A good number of them have been adding footways and paths.
> Unfortunately I haven't been keeping records on how many corrections
> I've had to make. 
> There is some good coming from Pokemon, however I worry about the
> increase in vandalism. 
> On Sun, Dec 25, 2016 at 9:17 AM, Toby Murray <toby.murray at gmail.com
> <mailto:toby.murray at gmail.com>> wrote:
>     There was a video uploaded to YouTube a couple of days ago that
>     claims to show some possible evidence that Pokemon Go uses data from
>     OSM to determine good spawn locations for Pokemon. There are also
>     several threads on reddit under /r/TheSilphRoad that have similar
>     claims. It is amusing to see their speculation and methods of
>     testing their "evidence" which include adding a footway to OSM and
>     then going out and playing Pokemon Go a couple hours later so see if
>     it affected anything. 
>     Anyway, the theory being proposed is that highway=footway features
>     in OSM lead to increased Pokemon spawn activity. Also, nests are
>     supposedly located inside of recreation type landuse areas (golf
>     course, park, play ground, etc) This has led to some players
>     attempting to influence the game mechanics by, for example, adding a
>     bunch of footways around their house. While that is a relatively
>     benign change, some others have taken to retagging paths, cycleways
>     and even residential roads to highway=footway.
>     I have been watching any changesets that come in with the word
>     "pokemon" in the changeset comments and have reverted a bunch of
>     them. However I am worried about users who may not be using
>     changeset comments so I thought I would at least let the wider
>     community know that this is happening and if you see any odd
>     reclassification of features to highway=footway, this is probably
>     why. I have also seen some legit and useful edits so it isn't all bad.
>     Some places where these discussions are happening:
>     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiJ000T8GbE
>     <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiJ000T8GbE>
>     https://www.reddit.com/r/TheSilphRoad/comments/5jfnrm/how_to_find_the_new_rural_spawn_points/
>     <https://www.reddit.com/r/TheSilphRoad/comments/5jfnrm/how_to_find_the_new_rural_spawn_points/>
>     https://www.reddit.com/r/TheSilphRoad/comments/50ni6g/osm_data_spawn_points_relation_confirmed/
>     <https://www.reddit.com/r/TheSilphRoad/comments/50ni6g/osm_data_spawn_points_relation_confirmed/>
>     https://www.reddit.com/r/TheSilphRoad/comments/54sy36/osm_query_to_identify_possible_nests/
>     <https://www.reddit.com/r/TheSilphRoad/comments/54sy36/osm_query_to_identify_possible_nests/>
>     https://www.reddit.com/r/TheSilphRoad/comments/5jw4ep/new_spawn_points_in_my_area_align_with_osm/
>     <https://www.reddit.com/r/TheSilphRoad/comments/5jw4ep/new_spawn_points_in_my_area_align_with_osm/>
>     I would call their evidence circumstantial at best.
>     Toby
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Rod Béra,  MCF Géomatique                /   Lecturer, Geomatics
           et SIG pour l'Environnement  /    and Environmental GIS
Agrocampus-Ouest|65 r.Saint-Brieuc|CS84215|35042 Rennes cedex|France
+33 (0) 223 48 5553 - roderic.bera at agrocampus-ouest.fr

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