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Google Taps Mobile Phones For Traffic Data

The search giant says user privacy is protected because data stays anonymous.

Google is using data from cell phones and smartphones with GPS to provide more real-time traffic data for Google Maps.

The search giant is trying to crowd-source this project by aggregating data from the millions of cell phone users with Google Maps for Mobile. Motorists with Google Maps, the My Location feature, and a GPS chip can send anonymous traffic data back to Google. The company combines this data with traffic information from other mobile users, and layers it onto Google Maps for mobile.

"When we combine your speed with the speed of other phones on the road, across thousand of phones moving around a city at any given time, we can get a pretty good picture of live traffic conditions," Google said in a blog post. "We continuously combine this data and send it back to you for free in the Google Maps traffic layers. It takes almost zero effort on your part -- just turn on Google Maps for mobile before starting your car -- and the more people that participate, the better the resulting traffic reports get for everybody."

As for privacy concerns, Google said it built in protections from the start. The data is anonymous, and Google said it permanently deletes the start and end points of every trip. Users can also disable the My Location feature, or they can opt out by following these instructions.

Smartphones such as the T-Mobile myTouch 3G and the Palm Pre come with Google Maps and the crowdsourcing traffic feature preinstalled, but Google said the iPhone's mapping application does not support the new traffic service.


For enterprises, keeping mobile devices functioning without interruption and giving customers the service they expect are paramount. InformationWeek has published five important practices on this topic. Download the report here (registration required).

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