Google Maps users on Android and iOS today are seeing a new prompt that explicitly permits the app to crowdsource their “navigation data.” Notably, live turn-by-turn navigation will not work unless you agree.

This dialog box provides a high-level overview of how “How navigation data makes Maps better” and appears after you tap “Start” on the directions page.

As you navigate, Google collects details, such as GPS location and the route you took. This data may be used to make information, including real-time traffic conditions and disruptions, visible to others and help them find the fastest route. 

Maps has always used this location data — along with transportation mode and sensor, like barometer, data from your device — to offer real-time information, with Google last September saying that over 1 billion kilometers are “driven with” the app every day around the world. That corpus of “navigation data” makes possible alternate route options, traffic status, and ETAs, as well as turn-by-turn navigation.

The company is now explicitly laying out what powers that last capability to end users and requiring them to agree to crowdsourcing to use it. This is presumably related to the “we protect your privacy” messaging that started at I/O 2021. Since May, Gmail, Photos, and Drive have all displayed in-app banners emphasizing privacy. 

  • Google Maps navigation data
  • Google Maps navigation data
    Step-by-step directions

If you don’t agree — i.e., selecting “Cancel” — to contribute your data, you won’t get live turn-by-turn navigation with voice feedback, e.g. turn left on [X] Street. Users will instead just be offered step-by-step directions (as seen on the right) as a static list. “Learn more” links to a support document.

Overall, this is a straightforward requirement for using a free, modern mapping application. Google notes that the Map navigation data is not “associated with your Google Account or device.” There is no change to how things work beyond making the implicit exchange explicit. This “navigation data” prompt is only just starting to appear for Google Maps users on Android and iOS today. 

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New Google Maps prompt makes clear that turn-by-turn navigation requires you to crowdsource data
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