Privacy Aspects in Volunteered Geographic Information (Privacy Aspects)

Privacy Aspects

In VGIscience we are developing methods and tools to generate cartographic material from “volunteered geographic information” (VGI). This means, we are using location-based social media data as source for our projects, that is published online by volunteers.

Yet, volunteers are probably not aware of their data being analyzed by third parties. Researchers, authorities, journalists or other players may use location-based social media data to create maps for certain occasions. Information enclosed in the resulting map may be compromising privacy aspects of the volunteers. Under certain circumstances it might be possible to draw inferences about the source of the data and therefore about the author.

Creators of cartographic material aim at certain goals with their products, that suffice for their individual purposes, may it be a proof for scientific theses, real time emergency information, or a report on the news. These goals may certainly counteract to the privacy needs of the authors, the volunteered sources of the data.

Despite the potential awareness for privacy aspects, the complexity of this topic may prevent creators to consider it. They face the problem to decide between two options: use any provided data and ignore the authors’ privacy concerns or remove some of the data and risk loss of important information in the resulting product.

We are trying to find and develop methods that enable creators of cartographic material from location-based social media data to display information from the original data with multi-dimensional abstraction options.


  1. Löchner, M., Fathi, R., Schmid, D., Dunkel, A., Burghardt, D., Fiedrich, F., & Koch, S. (2020). Case Study on Privacy-Aware Social Media Data Processing in Disaster Management. ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information, 9(12), 709. DOI: 10.3390/ijgi9120709