Mapping of "private" security cameras

Question re mapping of private security cameras i.e. cameras that are set-up around private houses, looking (mainly) at their own property (driveways, yard areas etc).

Should they be mapped in OSM?

Tag:man_made=surveillance - OpenStreetMap Wiki says “A surveillance camera or other types of surveillance equipment. These may be publicly or privately operated, and may be monitoring a public or private space”, but there’s no mention either there, or at Key:surveillance - OpenStreetMap Wiki regarding cameras at private houses.

Limitations on mapping private information - OpenStreetMap Wiki includes:
Limit the detail of mapping private backyards.
Do not map the personal possession of private objects or their location (like vehicles, TV-sets, washing machines, or how many livestock belong to a household)
Do not map personal private indoor facilities,
but again, doesn’t specifically mention security cameras.

So what do we think? Should they be mapped - yes / no?

I think security cameras that are visible from public areas can be mapped. The difference from personal private indoor facilities is that security cameras are “used” by anyone in camera range so a private security camera isn’t truly private if others can see it.

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Maybe it should depend on if there is a legal requirement to put up signs that security cameras are used. Mapping them is then an additional service to the public. If there is no such requirement, what is the use case for collecting that information? Who would use such information? Surely mostly by people with bad intentions. Do we want to provide them that service?

If you can see it, you can show it - or is it not our consensus not to “hide” things just because they might(!) be secret?

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I do map them yes. As long as they are observable from public areas, or areas one may enter legally.

Often these cameras do have some public space they “accidentally” monitor aswell so its interesting which spaces are or may be affected.



Thanks all for your comments.

Would it be good to write into the wiki that:

“Mapping of security cameras on private houses is allowed, if the camera is clearly visible from a public road / sidewalk, and it’s field of view includes public areas. However, mapping of private cameras either indoors, or away from public areas is discouraged.”

And should we also add something like:

“If the owner of private premises requests that their cameras not be mapped, we should comply with their request”


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:exclamation: I would copy the first part into the wiki in exactly the same way.

:interrobang: I have doubts about the second: Should I ring the doorbell first to ask for permission? Does this also apply to photovoltaics, garden shed, pool, garage, driveway, etc.? Where does asking start and where does it end?


And what if the doorbell is the camera? Do you map those too? Genuinely curious, it’s never occurred to me to map them. But some of them overlook public areas (illegal in some countries).

I think this is much too specific, and likely does not reflect the legal situation in all places on the globe. I’d rather write something like “It depends on the jurisdiction whether mapping security cameras (both, private and public ones) is allowed, please familiarize with the local situation when in doubt.”

In some places, the presence of video cameras has to be signposted for example.


Was mentioned at Talk:Tag:man made=surveillance - OpenStreetMap Wiki but the answer suggests there’s possibly issues with doing so?

Sorry, Dieter, but did you mean for your suggestion to replace both of my amendments?

Yes. I am opposing adding "If the owner of private premises requests that their cameras not be mapped, we should comply with their request”, because if mapping these is legally allowed, the owner has no base for having it omitted/ removed, and we should not constrain ourselves to more than necessary, if it is not allowed, you may not do so anyway. Most of the owners of security cameras do not want that information about these cameras, their position and where they point to, is published. On the other hand, the public has an interest in knowing these positions, particularly where they are surveilling publicly accessible areas.


If you are seeing something with your own eyes, either in person or by looking at legally-obtained, license-compliant, publicly published imagery, the information is already public for anyone that wants to look at it.

All we are doing as mappers is taking that already-public information and transcribing that information through our eyes and fingers into a geospatial database.

The idea that we could curtail the publication of such information by collective choice just seems a little silly. If not you, than someone else, or increasingly AI or machine learning will collect it. If you are personally opposed to mapping a certain type of feature, then by all means, refrain from doing so. But whether visible from a public street or a satelite flying overhead, that information has already been captured.

Features that are hidden in reality are likewise hidden in the database. A security camera plainly visible is no different from any other publicly observable feature.


Yes, but still I find your approach a little simplistic. For example, in
my country the names of the persons living in a building will usually be
in plain sight on the labels beside the bell panel for anyone who cares
to go there and look; nonetheless, the law in my country prohibits that
you collect this information in a database.

So, some information is out there for everyone to see, but not out there
for everyone to collect and process.

Now, the law usually reacts to bad things that happen - there was a time
when it would have been legal to collect these names and process them,
but then “stuff happened” and it was deemed necessary to make a law.

Contrary to the law, ethics have probably not changed. This means - in
my opinion - that it was unethical even before it was illegal; the law
only took a while to catch up.

I am wondering if there might be other, similar, cases where something
is, at present, legal for us to collect, but maybe “problematic” or

To say that everything that is legal to collect and process will be
collected by someone else anyway and hence we needn’t bother thinking
about it, is certainly a way to get rid of responsibility. But for me,
it sounds like a too easy way out.


Maybe it would be enough to write a sentence like „When mapping these features, please keep in mind the limitations on mapping private information.“


I feel like some ethical common sense come in to play. I don’t map what’s in someones backyard or attached to there house, seems like crossing a boundary to me.

I agree in general, but a camera that’s surveilling public land (from a private vantage point) feels like a special case to me.

Arguably the camera itself is “crossing a boundary” in the other direction?