We all have been using various navigation apps during travel. It doesn’t matter if we are familiar with the address we look for on the map, we are used to taking maps’ help in finding the shortest distances or to avoid rush hour traffic. One such popular app is Google Maps. When you use it, Google tracks and stores your current location to serve it better, or so we believed till now. However, what came into light in the recent past was that navigation apps do not require our live location to work properly.
Hidden Facts About Google Maps
Google had always assured it’s users that they had the choice to edit, delete, and turn off the location history on their accounts and devices at any given point. But it turns out that users don’t actually have that kind of control over their own data.
Even when you keep your location turned off, it only prevents Google from creating your location timeline for the day. Whenever you open an app of a Google service like Maps or search, it will send timestamps to Google. If you wish to delete these records manually, you can do so by visiting your account’s My Activity page, where they are stored. Select ‘Delete activity by,’ you will find a drop-down menu, from which you should choose ‘All time.’
Where Other Navigation Apps Stand
Most of the new navigation apps we use can work even offline. Such apps don’t track your location, but the drawback with those are their limited functionality and occasional inaccurate directions offered. Even though your location is unknown to these, they still can get hold of some of your data while you use their service. You need to give away your information like:
- Your personal data, while signing up. This data collection is required by law and you even need to confirm these details while accessing their customer service.
- For development and upgrades, the model of your device and your IP address will be revealed to the app.
- When you use navigation, you generally enter a location, which is either detected by the app or provided by you manually. This helps in returning region and language specific search results for your queries.
- Cookies collect your data for marketing analysis and search apps serve targeted ads based on your web behavior.
Hence, you can see that there is no navigation app that can work with absolutely no user data.
Best Alternatives To Google Maps
We’ve listed the best map apps that are privacy-oriented below:
OpenStreetMap is a great alternative to Google navigation app. It is a non-profit platform inspired by Wikipedia and uses the ‘open data’ concept, which means that anyone can edit any map across the world. The app gets its data from contributor camera, GPS units, and ground surveys. Though it is based on volunteers’ contributions, you cannot post anonymously- you have to sign up first. However, you do not need to give away your GPS and the app doesn’t give away your data for the sake of targeted ads.
If you need a simple navigation app that is good at its job, offers an offline mode too, and is easy-to-use, OpenStreetMap app can provide you cycling, driving, and walking directions quickly. However, the app turns to some third party services to run and update the app. The system administrators are the only ones who can use your personal data. Your details like IP addresses can be deleted after 6 months. Still, this secure since all of those come under the jurisdiction of the EU and have to comply with GDPR regulations.
Maps.Me can work offline and give you the navigation results and directions for 345 countries and islands. It is probably the only app that shows hiking trails in points of interests. On its online version too, it is easy for you to find out routes with least traffic, for cycling navigation, and public transport information. You can even get reviews and recommendations from the locals and bookmark and share your current location with your contacts.
Maps.Me platform, being open source, allows anyone to look up the code and find its vulnerabilities. The app gets its data from the OpenStreetMap database, but Maps.Me uses your location information for targeted ads. Maps.Me complies with GDPR regulations, this means that EU customers can ask the app providers for details about what information they collect or request them to delete their data. Even for non-EU users, the app proves to be secure and valuing their privacy a great deal.
Developed by Nokia, it offers a collection of points of interests in its offline mode too. If you are a traveler who wishes to save money, you can even compare various public transport routes and real-time traffic data for over 200 countries form your device.
Even though it is not as streamlined as Google Maps, it has many great features compared to Google. Owned by renowned car manufacturers like BMW, Audi, and Daimler, its “Places” option has gas stations, theme parks, ATMs, and pharmacies too. The app uses behavioral ads similar to Google, but you can change its settings and prevent them from profiling you. After you end your session, you can delete the timestamps used for navigation immediately. HERE WeGo complies with GDPR rules and regulations and hence, you know this is secure.
Sygic Maps and Navigation
Sygic Maps is great free to use app that offers everything from information about traffic conditions to plenty of points of interests to an offline GPS navigation mode. You can get TripAdvisor recommendations, parking spot suggestions, speed limit warnings, lane guidance, and road closures. Moreover, it also complies with GPRD rules.
Frequent travelers will like this travel-friendly app that offers personalized travel guides. Even though its database is smaller than that of HERE WeGo, it combines maps with travel information sourced from Wikipedia or their in-house editors. The app has strict rules for data storage. The data collected for app improvement is removed after 3 months, back-ups after 3 years, and security and system logs after 1 year.
OSM is a navigation and map app from F-Droid, which uses OpenStreetMap database and allows editing. Even though the search functionality cannot compare with Google’s, you can use the Address To GPS (via F-Droid) and get the longitude and latitude of a specific place through Google’s Places API. You can use voice and optical navigation, points of interest or create and manage GPX tracks. The app lets you use contour lines visuals and choose between cycling, driving or pedestrian modes. Map viewing features specialized online tiles display and satellite view from Bing. OsmAnd+, being open-source, actively supports user contributions and is in a continuous improvement stage of development.
Some apps provide you the freedom to limit their data collection, instead of just taking your privacy for granted. However, you have to decide which ones you can trust based on the transparency they offer. You can choose from the above few apps that value your privacy, as alternatives to Google Maps.