Visibility of GPS traces

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Traces with timestamps are drawn with colors by speed in JOSM. Traces without timestamps are drawn with purple.

The public visibility of GPS traces on can be configured on upload by the user. There are 4 options.

Privacy option Linked to user in API Public GPS trace list Timestamps via API Points via API
Identifiable yes yes yes yes
Public no yes no yes
Trackable no no yes yes
Private no no no yes
  • Linked to user in API - The trace will be linked to your user account when accessed via the API. Even without this, traces are always linked to your user when viewed on the website.
  • Public GPS trace list - The trace will be visible on the public trace list and on your user trace page. The trace will be linked to your account in these. Without this it is not possible to view the trace on the website.
  • Timestamps via API - The trace will have timestamps associated with each point and will be in chronological order, forming a line. Without this the points are in a randomised order and just appear as points in most applications.
  • Points via API - The points are avaliable via the API. This is currently always true, and there is no way to make a track completely private.

Some editors (e.g., JOSM) show time related information of GPS traces if the editor can get the timestamps. This time related information may be useful for inferring traffic data or mapping features, for example, stopping at traffic signals, driving on legal maximum speed, and so on.

JOSM displays all GPS data, regardless of the privacy option, whereas the "OpenStreetMap GPS traces" layer in iD presents only traces marked as “Identifiable” or “Public”.

However timestamp information is not so important for most mapping purposes. Clearly the trace coordinates (latitude and longitude points) are the main thing we're interested in. With this in mind you may decide to only reveal the trace coordinates to others without timestamps, if you are more comfortable with the slightly increased level of privacy this brings.

Also note that even if it is not in public list, someone might associate these trackpoints with you indirectly; i.e., inferring that trackpoints in a sparsely populated area must have come from the user that also edited data there. Data edits (ways/nodes/tags etc.) are always publicly associated with your username.

See our Privacy Policy for more information about privacy.

See this talk page section if you wonder why your uploaded traces do not appear (or appear dotted) in the "OpenStreetMap GPS traces" layer in iD.