Earlier this year, Google Maps added a feature to the common maps interface that allows users to identify problems* with map data or presentation. Click on the “Report A Problem” link in the lower right corner of the current map view. Then drag the marker on top of the error, categorize it, then write a description of the problem.

I reported several problems soon after the feature was released. I checked up on the results of one problem I reported. The situation was the lakefront multi-use path along Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois. The screenshots below show the map before I reported the problem and the repaired map.

With this addition, Google Maps seems to be encroaching on the territory of Open Street Map (OSM) that uses ONLY public domain (not the same as free) and user-contributed data. But the data users contribute to Google Maps (in the form of reporting problems on the map) become the property of Google and its data providers.

From the OSM Wiki, “The copyright of the whole data set is scattered among all contributors. Some contributors release their contributions to the public domain.” Readers interested in learning more about maps in the public domain should read this Guardian article about the UK’s Ordnance Survey heavy grip on its data.

Disclaimer: I felt prompted to write this post because James Fee on his blog often (1st) writes (2nd) about the (low) quality of the data Google puts in its Maps.

*Users have long been able to report problems, but never in such an easy way or one that tracks reports and notifies the user when Google fixes the error.