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OpenStreetMap Unnecessary Public Listing of our Farm Buildings / Features

  • 02-12-2021 8:17pm
    Registered Users Posts: 5,350 ✭✭✭ emaherx

    I am starting this thread to raise awareness of individuals who may take it upon themselves to map our properties in great detail on wiki style maps such as .

    As recently discussed in the now closed Slurry Pits thread, a volunteer mapper came to F&F for information on how best to identify certain farm features such as slurry pits. I don't believe the mapper in question meant any harm however this activity raises some serious security and privacy issues that affect us all as property owners.

    Further concerns were raised when a poster discovered a local farm had building labels like "Machinery Shed" and another farm although in another jurisdiction had "fuel tanks" labelled. These labels do go against OpenStreetMaps guidelines and were removed when pointed out however I feel that some of the labels which are allowed are also unnecessary, there is also the fact that it should not be up to us to discover unapproved labels and request their removal.

    I am not against open maps and community sourced data, we all probably use software which relies heavily on these sort of projects and I'm not looking to start a war on however I can see no legitimate reason for them to map the usage of individual farm buildings and other structures on our farms. I have sent an e-mail to [email protected] requesting they limit labelling of farm buildings to agricultural building or simply building, I've yet to receive a response.

    -----------------------------------------------------Content of e-mail---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


      I am contacting you on behalf of a small group of farmers concerned about the unnecessary labeling of Agricultural building use on private property.

    We have no particular issue with community mapping in general except with listing and classification of structures and features on our private properties which has no public significance except perhaps as a tool for some unwelcome guests, we feel a searchable map containing information about farm and building types pose unnecessary security and privacy risks to what is not just our place of business but in most cases the place where we live.

    Surely a label of agricultural building or simply building should be sufficient for a street map.

    We have also come across a few instances where buildings were given name tags beyond the normal building type tags which causes us most concern, especially if buildings are going to be named with keywords like Workshop, Machine shed, Tool store, Fuel storage etc.

    As I'm sure you are aware there is a discussion on the subject on which highlighted the issue when a mapper raised questions about how to identify certain structure types on our farms. We struggle to understand why an outsider would want to map our properties to such detail, it is certainly not to our advantage as we have our own tailored mapping software packages to cover the needs of our farms. Also as highlighted by the mapper the likelihood of mappers misidentifying certain agricultural structures is quite high due to low resolution aerial photos or the mapper not understanding what they see, this also has the potential of drawing unnecessary attention from certain groups to properties not even engaged in the listed activity.




  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 12,249 Mod ✭✭✭✭ blue5000

    Thanks Emaherx for that. I had a look at our local area and there was a local garage with a spanner symbol on it. This place is a business, perhaps they wouldn't mind being on the map in case someone broke down locally and needed to find a garage nearby. But on the other hand most garages these days would have a small fortune spent on equipment, and would be a target for thieves.

    I suggest we should check what's marked in your local area, and if you know someone with a building marked go talk to the owner and see if they want to remain on the map. We all know when there's a robbery there's usually local knowledge involved, but at the same time there's no need to make things this easy either.

    If the seat's wet, sit on yer hat, a cool head is better than a wet ar5e.

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,350 ✭✭✭ emaherx

    Cheers Blue,

    I think most businesses would be only too happy to be listed on a map like this or the likes of Google Maps, Bing Maps, Mapbox etc. as it helps customers find their premises. Being marked on the map is not what bothers me as much as the need for some to map individual features inside the farm gate, I'm sure a garage would be delighted to be a listed business, but more concerned if their 2000L fuel tank at the back of the garage was mapped and searchable by keyword. It may sound ridiculous that anyone would spend their days mapping small features but the OP of the other thread admitted to having mapped thousands of ESB poles and were now making it their business to map slurry pits.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,934 ✭✭✭ Lime Tree Farm

    Just another thing and I may be wrong, I noticed when I opened the web page it didn't request you accept cookies. It stated that by using the website you were accepting cookies.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,934 ✭✭✭ Lime Tree Farm

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,934 ✭✭✭ Lime Tree Farm

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  • Registered Users Posts: 186 ✭✭ Luttrell1975

    But there was a response in that thread before it was closed that explained to you that the naming of things was done by an individual, which is not how the rest of the open mappers do it, and the person who answered you took away those names immediately.

    I was looking forward to a legal discussion about which rights and laws exist which would stop someone using a satellite picture to make something else. If you know those laws state them. If not you should be putting the same email to Google, Bing, Apple, Amazon, and everyone else who has a web map with labels.

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,350 ✭✭✭ emaherx

    There was and I even covered that in the first post, but even the allowed labels are unnecessary, why is it even a thing to encourage labelling individual cow sheds, pig sheds, poultry sheds for example? Other non building features/structures don't seem to have any guidance like silo's, fuel tanks etc, and they have also been marked on maps.

    Google, Bing, Apple, Amazon to my knowledge etc do not actively encourage labelling every building in what is essentially our back yards in the same manor, if you you have read my posts you would see that I have no issue with mapping businesses and addresses, but there is no useful legitimate need for our farm buildings and other features to be mapped and searchable by keyword. If you search for farms on google maps it usually shows pins of named farm locations (ie the name was added to the address by the occupier) but not to induvial buildings or other features.

    As for the legality I'm not claiming anything to be legal or not, but that it is unnecessary and land owners should certainly be aware of the potential, I would also love if someone could shed some light on the legalities, certainly around the collecting of data on peoples homesteads.

    If you have a legitimate useful reason for every feature of our properties to be mapped in this fashion then please share, I haven't seen anyone provide one yet.

  • Registered Users Posts: 186 ✭✭ Luttrell1975

    I'm not an open mapper. The question you keep asking is based on something that the poster in the last thread told you was fixed.

    The question here isn't "what is your reason to make a map of rural Ireland and include every structure like every other map". The question is "why shouldn't they, or why wouldn't they." Answer that, and we talk.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,114 ✭✭✭ Dinzee Conlee

    ‘why shouldn’t they?’

    • it is not their property to be labelling or making assumptions on use
    • Their assumptions on labelling may put the property, contents or owner in peril from those who may use the map for nefarious purposes

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,350 ✭✭✭ emaherx

    I have no issue with them making a map of rural Ireland at all, I have a very specific issue with the labelling of buildings on private property which was partially addressed by the poster in the previous thread but far from "fixed". I personally believe as a whole that OpenStreetMaps is providing a useful service like many other map providers, this doesn't mean I don't find issue with a particular part of their service.

    Why they shouldn't?

    The collecting of data should have a purpose. The most basic question here should be simply, what is the purpose and who dose it serve? I haven't yet found anyone to answer this. Its easy seeing the benefit of mapping the premises of public facing businesses and services hard to see who has a legitimate benefit from listing the activities inside buildings on private property.

    Not a mapper? or a farmer? or other land owner? I know you don't have to reply to this, but what is you interest in this topic?

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  • Registered Users Posts: 849 ✭✭✭ Easten

    I don't think you can stop people putting a label on something that is in view from a public place. The same as you cannot expect privacy if you are in a public place. The problem with satellites is that they are in space. You might own the land below but you don't own the sky above it, nor have you or even the Irish government anyway to stop it.

    Unfortunately Google, Bing and OpenStreetMap are just the beginning. They are established and known, but currently there is about 12 other companies that have started creating mapping like these. Only the other day I saw a Polish camera car traveling along the N17, didn't catch the co. name but they had a similar setup to Google street cameras.

    It's the new reality we are living in now, and anything that's not under a roof will be photographed and cataloged. Indeed it's probably been done already and we are only a wiki-leaks away from some European Satellite system being accessed and put on the Internet for all to see

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,471 ✭✭✭ roosterman71

    No one has said that images can't be taken. To be fair to google, they will pixelate stuff if you ask them. Have done it a couple of times. The issue here is, on those publicly available images, that some busybody tags items on the map without permission. And there's a very good chance that tag will be incorrect. I don't want any of my private buildings to be tagged with anything. No more than someone in a housing estate would like their back shed to be tagged with something like "bike shed"!

    On OSM I've looked around my area. The amount of laneways, with gates locked that are tagged as publicly accessible is unreal. The assumption is everything is publicly accessible. I've given an example of people using my lane as a road between 2 other roads. I've had numerous cars land in the yard only to be blocked by a locked gate and then get irate about a) having to turn around and b) their car covered in shite

  • Registered Users Posts: 849 ✭✭✭ Easten

    But why would someone need permission to tag an item on a map. If it is visible from a public area then you cannot trespass with your eyes. There are going to be hundreds if not thousands of these maps in the future. The next generation of phones now has the capability to 3d map an area. The data gathered from these phones will be linked to other phones data and huge detailed maps of everyplace public and private are going to be built.

    The Genie is already out of the lamp

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,350 ✭✭✭ emaherx

    There is some truth to this, but there are still rules on what can and can not be done and those rules are subject to change, its fecked up what is allowed at the moment but at the same time you cannot point your CCTV outside your gate.

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,350 ✭✭✭ emaherx

    There will be more and more technology and sooner or later legislation changed for the better or worse to include these technologies, but it certainly does no harm to discuss the issues or even feed back to these service providers of our concerns.

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,471 ✭✭✭ roosterman71

    Who said it's visible from a public road? The yard is in a lane, surrounded by trees. I'm not denying that there'll be maps and they are a wonderful addition to our everyday life. But no one should be allowed tag something that isn't theirs. If I want to label my own stuff, sound. But you shouldn't have permission to do it. And you certainly shouldn't be able to mis-tag stuff. The original thread had questions around horse training rings vs slurry towers! What's on my property is my business until such time I make it someone elses by tagging it. Again, you wouldn't want someone tagging the shed behind your house as something like bike shed/car garage/lawnmower shed.

    The argument of what's coming in future isn't a reason to say "ah sure feck it".

    BTW, you're last 2 lines is already happening. Just look up how much info Google has on ya. But detailed maps of private stuff can't happen without the private owner agreeing.

  • Registered Users Posts: 10,219 ✭✭✭✭ Base price

    I have an issue with any person/entity viewing satellite images of my home which is also my place of work and arbitrary applying labels to same without my knowledge.

    We have an official Government mapping service in Ireland - Ordnance Survey Ireland ( that contains the official mapping for Ireland. They don't tag/label any home/farm/workplace within the jurisdiction. I wonder why??

  • Registered Users Posts: 310 ✭✭ The Rabbi

    Bull pen and cows shed.Maiden heifers shed on farmers property tagged.

    Parents room.Daughters room on your property tagged.

    Where will it all stop?

  • Registered Users Posts: 849 ✭✭✭ Easten

    My point is that from satellite is the same as from a public roadway, just because you own a piece of land doesn't mean you own the view into it. And yes I would object to someone tagging anything I have/own or even getting myself tagged in a photos with and without my knowledge or consent, but it happens all the time now and once it gets onto the net you just can't erase it, nor can it be policed.

    As for google already doing it, yes and no. You are talking about data gathered about you, not your surroundings which it's only if you give consent that they will plus you have the right to be forgotten. Mapping your surroundings is a different beast altogether, and while you can object or turn it off, it will only take one slip up in the box ticking that we do all the time now to give a third party the right to map your surroundings. Indeed you'll find people will volunteer the information in return for some service. It could be your kids or someone else playing an augmented reality game to allow the mapping of your house.

    It's will happen, people willingly give up there location information all the time now, this is just the next step. But as emarhex says, it's good to discuss this and let it be known.

  • Registered Users Posts: 849 ✭✭✭ Easten

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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,934 ✭✭✭ Lime Tree Farm

    A GP in the UK was fined recently, her neighbors objected to her video doorbell capturing their images as they came and went from their nearby home.

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,350 ✭✭✭ emaherx

    This is not about satellite imagery though. OpenStreetMap is not a satellite Map, it is a vector based map with every feature manually added by a community of volunteers. Every single object placed on the map becomes a searchable entity. The mappers can easily overlay satellite imagery from any of the satellite map providers or OSI maps for the purpose of mapping or simply add observations from the real world, by looking over the yard gate/wall/hedge but this has the potential to be a much more powerful tool than google maps by itself.

    I am not against this type of map, I simply believe that the mappers should at least be instructed not to identify structures in farm yards that are not open to the public and in the vast majority of cases will have no desire to be mapped at all. I've no particular issue with the buildings appearing on maps as they do on the OSI maps but fail to see the usefulness of these mappers guessing what our individual structures are for.

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,350 ✭✭✭ emaherx

    That is a thread all of its own, but there are issues with using CCTV in public places (including a few foot of public road at your gate). It probably can be done legally if you strictly follow the rules and are willing to assume the role of data controller and all that entails. But I'll leave that discussion here.

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,350 ✭✭✭ emaherx

    Response received:

    Thanks for reaching out and apologies for the delay in sending this response.

    The OpenStreetMap project is an open initiative to create and provide free geographic data such as street maps to anyone who wants them. It is a massive online collaboration, with hundreds of thousands of registered users worldwide. Many sources of map data are only available under license and through paying sizable licensing fees - something that many feel is inappropriate and something that can be addressed.

    OpenStreetMap Ireland is a volunteer-led organisation setup to promote open mapping methods, improve OpenStreetMap data quality, as well as supporting the growth of skills, tools and community cohesiveness. The OpenStreetMap dataset is managed by the OpenStreetMap Foundation, registered in the UK.

    Over the past 15 years, the global OpenStreetMap community has established guidance for capturing data, annotating map data as well as developing and maintaining tools for editing, managing, verifying and presenting map data. Guidance and rules are typically established through discussion and consensus. Where there are legal requirements, the OpenStreetMap Foundation takes responsibility for understanding what is required and initiating actions – when the GDPR was enacted, changes were made to the ecosystem to protect or remove relevant data.

    When a map contributor identifies a new type of object or building they feel should be added to the map, they typically prepare a proposal or why, what, how it should be mapped. The proposal is then shared with the wider mapping community for comment and voting. If issues are raised with the proposal, it is not adopted by the community and either dropped or reworked.

    For example, there was a proposal recently on how to capture Ogham Stones on OpenStreetMap, so a proposal was made and the discussed, and adopted:

    The community is also quite diverse, with over 7 million people having edited OpenStreetMap from all kinds of backgrounds and walks of life. OpenStreetMap Ireland has clear goals to grow the diversity of the open mapping community in Ireland.

    In response to the concerns raised in the boards thread, it would appear that a specific building was labelled in a manner that did not align with the established guidelines on how such building should be labelled. Abuse can exist on any data platform and OpenStreetMap takes it seriously. When responsible mappers become aware of such instances, they will typically take action and correct the issue. For more complex / complicated cases, the issue may be referred to a working group of the OpenStreetMap Foundation for review and resolution. In both cases, the local mapping community may be engaged to get additional context / insight to what is acceptable in that jurisdiction.

    In the case of the labelled building highlighted, the issue was resolved within hours of being communicated. We have also checked and that level of detail is not present on other farm buildings in Ireland. Some data sources may have taken a few more hours after that to sync the changes. This is expected behaviour.

    To answer the questions raised in your email: 

    >> If something is not clearly covered by rules above there still may be a clear consensus whatever it is OK to map it - possibly due to privacy concerns.

    > Who's Consensus, we certainly have concerns?

    “Community” in the context of the relevant document is referring to the OpenStreetMap community. Decisions made by the community are typically done by consensus.

    >> Do not map where individual people live, in particular do not add the names of inhabitants to dwellings.

    > Most Farms in this country are residential farms i.e. where people live.

    I believe this would be the case in most of the world. Even with the large farms in the US.

    >> As an international project, we should respect personal information as well as the consensus in the community about them

    > How is consensus in the community gauged? How many farmers/ rural dwellers were consulted?

    “Community” in the context of the relevant document is referring to the OpenStreetMap community. The document in question is still under development and we have agreed to engage the document owner to progress its development and raise some of the concerns you have raised.

    >> Limit the detail of mapping private backyards.

    > Often no boundary between backyards and farmyards especially on older and/or smaller holdings

    Agreed. The OpenStreetMap community is very familiar with boundaries, their evolution and complexity in Ireland.

    I hope this email provides some background to the OpenStreetMap project and how it is organised. The OpenStreetMap Ireland is open to feedback from all parties with a view of developing the approach to open data and open mapping in Ireland.

    If there is any additional information we can provide, do not hesitate to get in touch.

    Best regards,

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,350 ✭✭✭ emaherx

    There are some points clarified.

    But basically what is or not acceptable to be mapped is decided by consensus in their community.

    I did not start this thread as an attack on OpenStreetMap and can see some potential usefulness in the project concerned, I started it to raise some awareness to other land owners and suggest anyone else with concerns to voice them to the project by email as I have, you never now they may even listen to some of our points. I have replied to them letting them know that I feel they have too many labels for identifying individual farming activities and suggested that agricultural building/structure should be more than sufficient for the purpose of a street map. It may well be ignored but it will hardly do any harm.

  • Registered Users Posts: 849 ✭✭✭ Easten

    Yes of course it is a Map at the end of the day that started out as either OSI or satellite raster imagery that were vectorize, no big deal there. But a large amount of data within the map has been collected from satellite imagery, much more than other map sources. People updating information on the map are cross referencing other maps and imagery such as Google earth or services such as bing.

    While I don't like having my land mapped or structures identified, I don't see the big deal, and in a way it's only right that the public should know what is in the area around them

  • Registered Users Posts: 186 ✭✭ Luttrell1975

    I get the feeling you would like to disqualify me, so this is a probe to ad hominem. Put it this way, I do web publishing and by the way you keep talking I see already that I know more about privacy than you. You should look that up.

  • Registered Users Posts: 186 ✭✭ Luttrell1975

    Exactly. And we still await some listing of where PII is captured or what law is broken from the OP.

  • Registered Users Posts: 186 ✭✭ Luttrell1975

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  • Registered Users Posts: 9,189 ✭✭✭ Say my name

    You've failed to see it from the business/farmers point of view.

    Take a local stainless steel plant to me. There's no public allowed on site nor pictures allowed be put on social media from workers. Why?

    Because it would be against company policy and erode their commercial advantage. Their buildings will never have each of it's uses listed on open street maps. Mostly because the public even if looking in still wouldn't know what they're looking at. The company wouldn't give that data away to have it listed publicly. And rightly so. It's their right to have that.

    What we see here is contributers to open street map wondering what are they looking at at features and buildings on farms. Just because they want to list them up on a public site and to have more detailed information available to fee paying licence holders.

    Your farms buildings info is making the foundation revenue from selling on to licence holders. They encourage volunteers to identify the use of grey boxes on maps and then they sell on that info.

    It's immoral, pure and simple.

    Not to mention the opportunity for johnnie thief from finglas to use that info.

    It's wrong on so many levels.

    But the open street map are just seeing revenue to gain for themselves so they're pressing ahead.

This discussion has been closed.