Eddy Cue And Craig Federighi Discuss Apple Maps' Problems

10 August 2016

Fast Company:

How do we know when a new golf course opens up? We’re not exactly driving around looking for golf courses. But we know it’s there, because there are all these golf apps that get used at a golf course. If we see that all these golf apps are being used at a particular location, and we don’t show that as a golf course, we probably have a problem. You can discover that pretty quickly. It’s not as if you need a year, or anything like that.

The inferences made by the crowdsourced data are then followed up on with ground truth teams (people that drive around verifying locations actually exist), web research or checking satellite data. It’s unfair to say that Apple is powering maps by crowdsourcing but it definitely plays a role in finding points of interest and road changes.

What I think is interesting is how much Federighi and Cue play up the benefits of data collection elements, I’ve never seen them emphasise it like this before. Usually, it’s very quaint with endless assurances about privacy and anonymity. In this interview, though, they admit that the data they do collate is enough to accurately pinpoint new sports venues. It may not be personally-identifiable but the fact Apple can trace the construction of golf parks from App Store downloads is pretty wild.

Cue’s enthusiasm also runs counter to Apple’s company message that they don’t want your data. I am in the camp that Apple could do better stuff if it did collect more data and it sounds like Cue and Federighi are almost begging for the opportunity to use it. I hope Apple relaxes its privacy stance somewhat and offers features that simply aren’t possible without accumulating a centralised store of user data on servers. Health data cloud syncing is the obvious example.