protecting user-created content by denying data export capability

Brett's Avatar


31 Aug, 2020 06:27 PM

Being able to share a map without the ability for other users to download / export tracks, waypoints, and other author data would be a useful feature to add. High quality GPS data can be hard-won, the result of countless hours of field and mapping work, and sharing culture is now to the point where whole business ventures are based on scouring the web to repurpose and monetize data in ways that may be antithetical to their intended use. A closed ecosystem could solve this, where a new iteration of Caltopo's share setting "Secret" would allow a controlled audience to view and interact with maps online and in the app, in the field, for navigation purposes, without concern over hard-won proprietary data being lost over time to the universe via that simple, well-meaning but problematic export feature. Authors of high quality GPS data would thus be rewarded rather than potentially penalized for their efforts. Not everyone may feel this way but I would argue it's a growing concern, and there are few good solutions, especially when the goal is let others follow your breadcrumb on their phone.

  1. Support Staff 1 Posted by Julie on 01 Sep, 2020 08:54 PM

    Julie's Avatar

    Hey Brett,

    Thanks for this. It definitely prompted some discussion among the team. For now we feel that we have built the program to be based on encouraging the sharing of information and would like to keep it that way. While we understand and respect how difficult it can be to create high quality data, we don't feel that limiting sharing in such a way falls within our company goals.

    Sharing and who you share with can already be rigidly controlled using secret maps and read only codes. While those users could technically still export a map to make a copy, if you are selective you can still use our platform to share content in a meaningful and secure way. I'm sure you are familiar with printing to PDF and other export functions. I would suggest if you are concerned about people stealing your high quality tracks, then upload edited ones with every other point removed or some other strategy for still sharing the data, but at a lower accuracy that you have yourself. Then publish a PDF with the high quality data, or some other combination. Most users don't have the ability to accurately follow a super high quality track anyway, given the error radius involved with most cell phone GPS capabilities.


  2. Julie closed this discussion on 01 Sep, 2020 08:54 PM.

  3. Brett re-opened this discussion on 02 Sep, 2020 05:44 PM

  4. 2 Posted by Brett on 02 Sep, 2020 05:44 PM

    Brett's Avatar

    Hi Julie,

    Thanks for your very thoughtful reply, and for addressing some of the workaround solutions available (some of which are familiar to me :). I do understand the team's perspective on wanting to build a platform based on sharing and collaborating. My interest here is fairly niche, after all.

    That said, since you do currently offer the ability to keep a map entirely private or make it "secret," I thought that perhaps a further option based around export capability (e.g., "Secret with Export" or "Secret without Export (aka truly Read Only)") wouldn't represent a radical shift in the business model. It might even generate more use within the app, and in general, keep users within the Caltopo ecosystem.

    Thanks again for all of the great features you folks have implemented. It's so refreshing to see developers actively enhancing an (already proven) product in real time.

  5. Support Staff 3 Posted by Julie on 02 Sep, 2020 10:42 PM

    Julie's Avatar


    What you suggest is not entirely out of the question, but we are not looking at doing anything like that anytime soon.


  6. Julie closed this discussion on 02 Sep, 2020 10:42 PM.

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