Facebook has a spotty history when it comes to digital privacy, so naturally it’s getting into the street level maps game.
Swedish mapping startup Mapillary announced in a company blog post on Thursday it had been acquired by Facebook. Mapillary CEO Jan Erik Solem didn’t give any financial details about the acquisition, but noted that things would not change much for Mapillary users, at least in the short term.
In case you haven’t heard of Mapillary, it solicits photo uploads from regular folks in order to build out a highly detailed street level map of the world. It’s similar to what Google Maps does, but you can upload your own photos instead of waiting for a Google van to drive around your neighborhood. Folks who make their own mapping software can use Mapillary’s data for their own purposes, too.
Mapillary’s blog post indicated that the data would remain open and free to use for both commercial and non-commercial purposes, so it doesn’t seem like Facebook is walling it off yet. It’s not entirely clear what Facebook intends to do with Mapillary’s platform, as general use mapping software isn’t really in Mark Zuckerberg’s portfolio.
That said, the Mapillary blog pointed to Facebook Marketplace and humanitarian aid as ways Facebook uses maps behind the scenes. Given the litany of privacy problems Facebook has dealt with in recent years, including with its shiny new Messenger Rooms video chat service, skepticism about this acquisition is certainly understandable.