Frequently Asked Questions

What is MapSwipe?

MapSwipe is a mobile app developed for the Missing Maps Project to enable fast satellite image classification on mobile devices.

Why MapSwipe?

The Missing Maps Project aims to proactively map the places in the world where the most vulnerable people live before a crisis happens. MapSwipe allows you to easily contribute to this mission by laying down the first layer of the map from the comfort of your own phone.

Through MapSwipe, you can also join emergency response efforts led by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) when an active crisis arises.

How does it work?

You install the app, join a project, and swipe through satellite imagery while tapping the features you spot. The tiles you mark will become to the base layer of detailed maps drawn by other volunteers.

You can even contribute during unconnected downtime (aboard the subway, on a plane, in the field), and track your progress with badges and achievements. Commit to help a little every day, or do something valuable when you find yourself stuck in line. MapSwipe makes it easy!

What are the organisations behind it?

The Missing Maps Project is an open collaboration founded by the American Red Cross, the British Red Cross, Humanitarian OSM Team (HOT) and Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

MapSwipe was built with a financial and HR investment by MSF UK and the efforts of passionate humanitarian volunteers.

Is there any guidance or training on how and what to map?

We hope to provide a better training experience within the MapSwipe app in the future. Many users have already requested this as a feature. As a stop gap, there is a blog post with guidance on how to interpret the satellite imagery and what to look for, here.

How does the technology work?

MapSwipe uses satellite imagery divided into tiles. Currently each tile is approximately 256 x 256px, or .024km^2, however this may vary by zoom level and imagery source. The imagery is not real-time.

Where does the satellite imagery come from?

The satellite imagery we use is generously provided by Bing / Microsoft Corporation (who also makes a huge amount of imagery available for OpenStreetMap). Unfortunately, a bug in the MapSwipe app currently prevents us from displaying attribution appropriately. We are working to get this fixed!

How much data does MapSwipe use?

It depends on how much area you map! The satellite imagery can be heavy though, so we advise downloading imagery for mapping while you have a wifi connection and then mapping the tiles offline when you are outside of wifi.

If you MapSwipe purely through your mobile data plan, you should expect some charges.

What happens to the data I give?

User generated data
Data created by MapSwipe volunteers is released under a "liberal" non-reciprocal license (Creative Commons Attribution), which imposes only the requirement that users acknowledge the source (you can do whatever you want with the data, but you can't claim that you created it or neglect to mention who did create it, in this case the MapSwipe contributors).

Email Addresses
The registered email address for a MapSwipe user account will never intentionally be published on the internet anywhere, shared with third party organisations, or revealed directly to other logged in users. Only System Administrators will have direct access to email address data. It may be used by these people to contact users directly about their MapSwipe related issues.

IP address
The IP address of a MapSwipe user will never intentionally be published on the internet anywhere, shared with third party organisations, or revealed directly to others.

Why is MapSwipe data licensed differently from OSM data? Why does MapSwipe not use reciprocal license?

Our goal, like that of the wider OSM movement, is high-quality geographical data that is freely accessible and available to everyone. Our licensing serves that goal. OSM’s reciprocal license protects its data from being appropriated by commercial services that do not share back to OSM, but such a precaution is not necessary for MapSwipe data.

MapSwipe does not (yet!) produce map data. Instead, MapSwipe volunteers pre-screen satellite imagery to increase the speed and quality of the actual mapping process.

MapSwipe is released under a "liberal" non-reciprocal license (Creative Commons Attribution), which only requires that users acknowledge the source.

How are the projects chosen?

MapSwipe projects are chosen by members of Missing Maps. Each project focuses on a specific area that matches a humanitarian need for one of those member organisations.

How can I contribute to the initiative?

We welcome feedback. Please leave your questions, comments, or concerns on this form here. MapSwipe is an open source project created and maintained by volunteers like you, so the best way to see new features implemented is to get involved and make it happen.

More technical feedback can be added to