Use Google Maps API to display data? Your data has been POWNED

If you use Google Maps API to display data on our website, then beware; new Terms of Service have been introduced. And it doesn’t look good…

Basically its laid out pretty clearly (see section 11.1) that if you use the API to display *your* data, then you grant Google a irrevocable licence to do as it sees fit with your data.

Sure it says “You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Your Content. ” – first, to soften the blow, but then goes on to say “[to] publicly perform, publicly display and distribute Your Content… ” (click the above link to see the full text) – I dont see how that is any different to saying they can do what they like with your data.

It gets worse if you have “business listings data”, as 11.1(b) says: “For example, if you create a store locator application, Google may use the business listings information from the store locator to improve the Google Services such as Google Maps and local search.
- give your data away free to Google why don’t you!

then as 11.3 says “Authority to Grant Licenses. You confirm and warrant to Google that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the above licenses.” – in many cases I* don’t think I can!

So does that mean if I can’t grant the licence demanded, I can’t use the Maps API? It seems so to me, so its with a heavy heart have had to disable some API based maps and Mashups. At least in the short term.

* as the one agreeing to the Maps API Terms Of Service.

How its true the global Google TOS document has basically said since I can remember, but this new terms spell it out what the deal is. Before I argued it was not in the *spirit* to of Maps API to allow such broad licencing – now it seems it is.

So it’s almost tempting to say its of little practical difference – nothing has really changed – other than now it would be blatantly flouting the terms, something not really prepared to do.

Of course we have known for a long time, the ‘information grab’ is on – its a commodity; after all its Google business to organise the worlds data – and to do that it must gather data. This is generally done by the GoogleBot spidering your site – a process you maintain some control over, and even by omission, agree to.

The API does indeed offer a choice too – you can choose to not use it, but if you do, then your data can be gathered – legally too (well almost). Its Googles’ API, its their right to dictate how you use it – after all they are where offering it for free with little return. Now they have a return.

… Now I am really torn, I was a big supporter of the API – can I do that any more?

Now that all been said – I would be more than happy to be proved wrong – its not really as gloomy as it seems.

Time will tell who has shot who in the foot…. (and no doubt this will be greatly discussed)

Update: Offical announcement

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18 Responses to “Use Google Maps API to display data? Your data has been POWNED”

  1. Thomas says:

    It’s now another reason for why I’ve been using OpenLayers even with a Google layer – the data is not being displayed using their API, so you have somewhat more control over it, and you’re still not even abusing the Google API’s TOU. (At least not when metacarta last checked)

  2. Ed Parsons says:


    A case of very selected quoting here I think.. if anything I would argue this TOS is less broad than the previous one ..

    Why quote..

    [to] publicly perform, publicly display and distribute Your Content.

    when the actual term is..

    [to] publicly perform, publicly display and distribute Your Content. This license is for the purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Service.


  3. Barry says:

    @ed, thanks for the reply.

    Not sure how that changes it, was very selective in quoting so people go and read the document themselves, didnt see the need to duplicate it here. The ‘Display’ is a given, but what does the ‘distribute’ mean? Why does the data need distributing? (c) already goes on to say they data can be passed and syndicated to others. If it was “This license is for the [sole] purpose…” then maybe that would be better. ‘promote’ is almost certainly a minority case and so have no real issue with that.

    I agree they are less broad than before – which is a VERY good thing and I am grateful, – its far more clear-cut than before. But in adding precision, it leads less room for interpretation. (its one thing when the terms are unclear so you think you are probably ok – and following the spirit of the terms, even if the wording is unclear (by omision), to suddenly be probably not ok)

    But as you’ve said, 11.3 is another issue, I dont believe can comply with that requirement. I might have a licence to display the data myself – but not to grant any licence to anyone else. (and guess just means cant use the Maps API)

    So the question is, is it OK to use the Maps API when you knowingly can’t abide by the terms? and similarly ‘leaking’ data to Google knowing that data is of questionable legality – but Google doesn’t know that- it can just go ahead assuming it has a valid license.

    A good clarification would also be exactly *what* data is covered by this, is it any data via the API, just stuff via GGeoXml, does it include tilelayers, GMarkers created by hardcoded JS etc?

    Anyway probably need to sleep on it some more…

  4. Barry says:

    So the question is… rhetorically of course! Dont expect an answer to that. The person themselves has to be satisified they comply with the terms.

  5. Barry says:

    I beleive that is covered by 5.3 on

    but it you are just accessing the tiles directly and not actully agreeing to *any* Terms, then its a totally different issue! (and you accept that Google are free to block you)

  6. [...] информации Переведено не [...]

  7. [...] blog has a good piece on the new Google Maps API Terms of Service agreement: Basically its laid out pretty clearly (see [...]

  8. [...] If you prefer to read also about the bad side of this story, Go and read this article from Barry from Share and [...]

  9. Barry says:

    These terms just keep getting better and better…

    Every darn mashup I’ve ever made – and a probably a good deal of other peoples (maybe 99.99998%) – don’t comply with the Terms of Service. Yippee!

  10. [...] have been calls for the management of OS to resign and calls to consider stop using Google’s API by mappers. All in all, its quite a [...]

  11. Barry says:

    Just to clarify**, the issue with Google Maps API on Geograph is NOT been put upon us by the OS.

    I personally don’t feel the current Google Maps API terms are compatible with the project – specifically that photos are Creative Commons licensed, and the terms demand a license to that data that Geograoh is UNABLE to provide, as it itself does not get ANY rights from the photographer apart from the Creatice Commons license.

    The OS has already disclaimed interest in grid references stored with images – even when that is derivived from OS maps.

    ** (as its been pointed out to me that OS sponsor Geograph could leads to certain things been inferred – we are entirely independent, only receiving financial backing)

  12. [...] some further insight in Barry Hunter’s blog who provides the excellent who also seems to have been [...]

  13. [...] physically obvious on the ground – is a Good Thing, as the current row between Google and the OS (more, more) about derived data [...]

  14. Thomas Wood says:

    OpenLayers ‘bootstraps’ the GMaps API. It doesn’t scrape the tiles (although I’m sure they’d like to), but encapsulates the core functionality and wraps it in its own map pane.

    Any data you then display can be overlaid on the GMaps API, but you won’t be directly using your data with their API, only OpenLayers.

    I’m not sure whether their TOS covers that, it’d get very fuzzy.

    Anyway, we all know that google index kml/georss at least, it doesn’t differ much, does it?

  15. [...] the TOS and the Guardian and BBC jumped into the fray on each side of the fray. Some API developers suggested the need to pull down their [...]

  16. [...] blog GIS, maps, mapping, geo, UK, Geograph, PHP, Perl and more –: Visit Homepage :– © Barry Hunter 2007, blog content Creative Commons Licenced unless specified « Use Google Maps API to display data? Your data has been POWNED [...]

  17. Paul says:

    OpenLayers + OpenStreetMap.

    Sorted :-)

  18. Epicanis says:

    Personally, I’d love to see more projects also support map generation from WMS and similar sources (presumably the above-mentioned “OpenLayers + OpenStreetMap” would also qualify). Legally-free WMS layers seem to be reasonably abundant.