Mapping Police Cameras

I’m interested in raising awareness of government-owned surveillance of free (peaceful, noncriminal) people.

Will OSM support me or allow me to add all of my city’s police cameras to the map?

Can my government take them down/identify me for retaliation?


OSM cannot support you (unless you’re talking OSM Foundation), the community could, if they agree, which I can’t say for sure since no one can read the minds of the community.

Just like Wikipedia, you can be anonymous, but you have to do stuff to be anonymous. Don’t reveal personal information, and then that’s good. But then, you might need a VPN, because OSMF OWG (Operations Working Group) owns and operates all the servers to and can send your IP to authorities, which could identify your resident status and place of living.

And yes, it is possible to add surveillance cameras. Please have a look there: Tag:man_made=surveillance - OpenStreetMap Wiki .


“Support” was a poor choice of words. I’m basically asking if documenting publicly visible cameras is considered a security risk here, or otherwise frowned upon. Or if there’s some policy limit I should be aware of.

I also realize that most people don’t care about where the government’s cameras are, so it might be considered “clutter” to some. Though it’s just a matter of software to hide those by default. I think there’s an object type for Tree, Fallen Tree, and Tree Stump… and lord knows that could be even messier.

I know that there’s map objects for cameras and surveillance, which would imply it’s okay. But it’s rather a lot of work to do, so I wanted to be extra sure it won’t get taken down before investing the time to map it.

Walking around the city with my laptop is too eccentric, even for me. So far I’ve recorded myself speaking while driving, and noted where things were in audio, planning to “transcribe that” to the map. Any better ways?

I think ALPR could use a different icon from other cameras. The prevalence of ALPR is what got me concerned about this in the first place. Once it’s at every intersection, it becomes very nearly realtime tracking of movement of all people.

Also, I noticed there’s a separate object type for “Surveilance” and “Surveilance Camera”. Is that a mistake/oversight/cruft, or is there a distinction between the two I should know about or one deprecated?

Once I’ve added all the data I’d love if there was a way to generate maps with just the camera and arterial street layers so I could share a concice map that accurately conveys the camera coverage.

How about a smartphone? I do most of my mapping from Go Map!! on my iPhone, and I understand Vespucci has similar functionality on Android.

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I’ll check it out. Android here though… But honestly, people are expected by unwritten social rules, not to linger in this area. Standing still on a sidewalk for minutes will attract unwanted attention, probably get the police called to ask if they can help. and actually, I have asked them to publish a map already and they refused, so no, they can, but they won’t help!

You know. a better question is this:

If my government logged into OSM and deleted the camera objects I placed on the map, would their deletes be revertable? considered vandalism? result in their account getting blocked?

Is there any Truthful information that OSM does not permit, or allows governments to censor? for example
Building uses at Area 51
Foreign Espionage (wiretap and signals) Facilities
Sleeping quarters of the sitting president
Missile silos
Battered Women’s shelters
Witness Protection shelters
Pregnancy termination clinics and alternatives

To be perfectly clear to those who just put me on their list… I have no interest in mapping those examples. I’m just inquiring the limits of OSM’s use case.

My city Venlo is cluttered with cameras like this:

and you bet that I mapped them all.
All those cameras should be torn down.
DDR 2.0

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I don’t represent the OSMF or claim to even have a good grasp on community consensus here, but my general impressions are:

Some already map these and there are websites that show them e.g.:

This will probably depend on the legality of mapping such things in your jurisdiction (wherever that is) and whether the government in you area is likely to take action outside the law. Most of us aren’t lawyers (including me) and can’t really advise you there. I don’t know that OSMF policy is with regard to court orders from countries outside of where they are based.

The general rule for OSM is that something should be verifiable on the ground, secret facilities don’t normally let hobbyists in to map. Personal data should not be mapped and will be redacted by the DWG if they are notified. There is some (unofficial) discussion of this here. Some mappers refrain from mapping certain facilities where they agree with that organisations desire to keep the location quiet, e.g. some may not map women’s shelters, but will map the locations of publicly advertised meeting points/satellite offices for women who want to make use of them. You may also find the caution on the military page of interest.


As you can see on this map, quite a lot of them are mapped. You are clearly not the only one interrested on the topic.


The “Surveillance” type is generic “surveillance” (camera, guard, automatic license plate reader) while “Surveillance Camera” is a camera for surveillance

This is from iD

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If you’re on Android take a look at EveryDoor: you can add surveillance camera easily.

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Or iOS - EveryDoor works there too :grinning:


It might take a little while to get the hang of it, but adding nodes as you walk through an area is quite doable with the mobile apps mentioned. No need to stop and linger.

It probably also depends on how black or arab you look, but generally nowadays nobody cares a lot if someone walks around playing around with their phone. They’ll think you’re on TikTok or collecting Pokemon.

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I don’t know. I worry about looking suspicious, and I look white at first glance. I usually map things by making voice recordings on my phone, then later playing them back while in front of my computer at home. It might be faster to take pictures of everything, but then I’d look really suspicious. I have learned not to park in front of houses on seldom-used streets. I got the police called on me a few times doing that, and that was just walking my dog before I started also mapping everything while walking my dog. Now I either park on a street where there’s a little more traffic and others are also parked, or at the very end of the neighborhood where they haven’t built houses yet. And I try to talk to anyone when getting out of the car, if they see me. Of course, that’s easier if you can telll them “I’m walking the dog” instead of “I’m mapping security cameras.”