Google, Apple, and Uber must share mapping data with rivals, says UK data group

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Tech companies like Google, Apple, and Uber should be forced to share mapping data with rivals firms and the public sector, the UK government has been advised by a data advocacy group.

In a report published today, the Open Data Institute (ODI) said that “data monopolies” were stifling innovation in the UK. These companies duplicate one another’s efforts, said the report, while using their large financial clout to gain insurmountable leads over would-be rivals. If they shared data, they said, then many services and new technologies — like drone delivery services and self-driving cars — would benefit.

The ODI is an influential group in the UK, co-founded by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and Nigel Shadbolt, a professor of artificial intelligence at the University of Oxford. The report was published ahead of the UK government’s forthcoming review of national geospatial strategy, which will guide any mooted changes to legislation.

Still, it’s not clear what laws the UK could introduce to force such data sharing, or if there is any widespread political report for such changes.

In the ODI’s report, the authors note that geospatial data is a vital resource in the digital age, used to guide decisions in “almost all aspects of life and across all sectors of our economy.” The UK government has previously estimated that if such data was widely shared, it could generate between $7 billion and $14 billion additional revenue for the country.

Jeni Tennison, chief executive of the Open Data Institute, said that while big tech companies are simply trying to deliver a good service to customers, “the status quo is not optimal.” Tennison told the Financial Times: “The large companies are becoming more like data monopolies and that doesn’t give us the best value from our data.”

The ODI’s report makes for interesting reading in a climate of growing distrust of tech monopolies. In the US, monopoly-busting cases are being made against Facebook, Amazon, Google, and others. Geospatial data is not the most talked-about aspect of this debate, but as the ODI notes, this information is too important to be forgotten about.