"Maxar" Satellite Imagery use in OSM

I would like to request here a summary (and possibly updates) of where we stand with Maxar Satellite Imagery use in OSM.

I guess that - apart from kicking us out of their imagery by revoking the keys - they have communicated to someone

  • what the specific problem was (I read that they had problems with a small number of nondefined individuals doing very vaguely phrased kind of abuse),
  • whether they do have a solution in development (and its expected timeframe), or
  • whether they are waiting for us to provide a solution, or
  • maybe they are open for suggestions and help (we already had plenty offered),
  • or they are waiting for anything from us,
  • or they “forgot” to respond to OSMF about what’s next and they clearly would need some friendly reminder that we are waiting for their response.

Or, possibly, that they have reconsidered and would not like to support the OSM community efforts anymore, but then it would be prudent to say so instead of keeping us waiting forever… for nothing.

I (possibly along the big pile of mappers editing Africa and Asia) would really prefer a monthly update on that. Would be nice.

Thank you very much!

(See also Maxar imagery not working (was "Maxar is blurred in ID" and other similar topics))


That might be an unwarranted guess.

As I pointed out in one of the threads you referenced, we originally got access to the imagery post Facebooks infamous ML screw up, the model allegedly having been trained on it. That was a backroom deal between a number of US tech companies and Digital Globe (now Maxar) which involved the exchange of money.

It would seem obvious that re-aiming the $$$ fire hose at Maxar would resolve all the issues. Naturally the OSMF doesn’t have funds available for that so …

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I really prefer not to guess at all, that is the main reason of asking.
(Though it’s not as unwarranted as it seems since some people already have suggested that Maxar mentioned some kind of abuse. You may know some of these people, from the bathroom mirror for example. :smirk: )

This is tangentially related to this question. I read that, but it’s old news.


I do not remember reading that in the last decade anywhere, so either this has been a closely guarded secret (in an open community, which is kind of weird), or this is just a guess. If you know specifics it would be beneficial for us all to know about it, instead of, you know, guessing.

Nay, this is not resolving the problem but buying a service.
That was my last point above: if they have decided (which is not the same that we guess that they might have) that they will not support OSM anymore then they clearly shall say that, and we shall re-examine the possibilities.

If you implied above that “we” (or someone on our behalf) have paid for the service then it would be extremely good if we knew about that, and also the details. (Also about the circumstances why these benefactors have stopped paying, if they have. But then it is an extremely rude way to cry abuse when they simply want more money.)

I do not think, before anyone claims that I did, that they are obliged to give it away for free.
Instead, I strongly believe that companies can be persuaded that supporting OSM does not cause harm to their business and beneficial for the human race in general. (Especially if they ask us to help them with countermeasures to abuse, for example by issuing personal keys to established editors.)

It was neither a closely guarded secret nor is it a guess. The details of the agreement were not disclosed, but the general outline was known and publicly announced. Here straight from the horses mouth: DigitalGlobe satellite imagery launch for OpenStreetMap

Again this was pointed out multiple times that it was being paid for in the discussions on Maxar imagery. When or if this stopped and if this was the/one of the reasons they stopped providing it is unclear, what is clear is that they had multiple incidents of imagery being scraped, again not a guess as this was stated as the reason for rotating keys.

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Thanks for the pointer!

It it says, quote:

OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a free and open database of Earth’s features created by contributions from volunteer mappers. Every day, thousands of new features are added and existing features are enriched. Accurate, high-resolution and up-to-date satellite imagery is an essential component for improving this continuously evolving map of our planet – whether it is to trace new features or to use as a reference layer for validation. DigitalGlobe has supported the OSM community for years through partnerships, and today, we are pleased to announce that we will also support OpenStreetMap directly.

Over the past few months, we have been working with several of our partners that share the common goal of improving OpenStreetMap. To that end, they have generously funded the launch of a global imagery service powered by DigitalGlobe Maps API. This will open more data and imagery to aid OSM editing. OSM contributors will see a new DigitalGlobe imagery source, in addition to imagery provided by our partners, Bing and Mapbox.

We anticipate questions and feedback about this release. We are addressing them through an active forum with FAQs here. This post is replicated on OSM Forum. I’m available on OSM help or you can hit me up directly with any additional questions.

If phrasing to be trusted this means that these partners funded the development of the said API, but have not paid for the service, which is a good sign, since it suggests that it is not about the drying out of some money flow.

Unfortunately @_kevin_bullock is not active since 2018 on the forum so I cannot ping him (and he possibly wouldn’t be really happy to be summoned anyway).

I believe it was clearly obvious that I am not aware of these multiple times pointing outs and would appreciate some links, at least in their general direction and suggested search keywords.

Yet the above quoted blog entry suggests that the imagery was not paid for, so I would really appreciate if there would be a public mention about it being paid by whom.

It is also unclear to me, that is the main reason I am asking.

As for illegal scraping, I am sure that of those multiple solutions were suggested, any of them could severely limit possible abuse, which would justify enabling the service again, provided that it has been shut down for this reason. I really would prefer if OSMF would communicate this to Maxar, and if that’s the case I personally offer any help I can, and I am sure that many members of the community would do as well.

I would appreciate an official OSMF reaction. I know it’s not convenient, I am very sorry for that.


Another statement by DG [Imports] Facebook's AI-Assisted Road Tracing for OSM and here "AI-Based Country Scale Road Import" - #23 by PlaneMad

Obviously this is only the quotable stuff, just as the OSMF is unlikely to give an official statement on an agreement they weren’t party to.

PS at the time I was fairly vocal that the construction wasn’t a good idea and that the funds flowing to DG should be controlled by the OSMF, but to no avail … geschenkter gaul schaut man nicht ins maul.

The OSMF was not directly involved in providing Maxar imagery and did only learn from the community that it disappeared. We have tried to get in touch with the parties but with limited success. We will let you know if the situation changes.

Sadly, as it stands now Maxar imagery is gone with no indicators of returning.


If there’s any moral of the story then it is that Then It Should Now.

This reminds me of this conversation from Top Secret! (1984):

  • [General Streck] (Talking on the phone) What is the condition of Sergeant Krüger?
  • [pause]
  • [General Streck] (Talking on the phone) Very well, let me know if there is any change in his condition.
  • [hangs up the phone] [looks at the others]
  • [General Streck] He’s dead.

While fine as a principal, from a practical point of view that implies organizing $$$$$$$ to pay Maxar. A 1st step would be to get an initial quote from Maxar on how much that would be, that sounds like a good task for you to do.


Let me disagree.

I am usually one of the chosen few talking with various companies and governmental institutions, and obviously we never offer to pay for anything (mainly because TINW (There Is No We), no legal organisation which could actually own any money to pay from). My job is usually find a person who helps me from inside, or if we already have someone then talk to them and the organisation through them to reach an agreement which is mutually beneficial and causes no real harm to the offering party. We get “sponsorship” in the form of “data”, and we list the sponsors in the wiki.

Most of the time these discussions are about dissolving misconceptions, finding technical solutions to specific problems, specifying the exact way of use and the exact circle of data to use, and in the end usually creating and agreement, refining it and get both parties to sign them. Then get them slaves mappers to grab the data and process it before importing.

(As an example: in one case there was a huge amount of orthophotos offered but they did not have the resources and time to run a server [nor the mood to provide support], so we transferred the images, tiled it and serve it from our server.)

What I expect from the Foundation is to communicate and organise. Find mappers who are in a position to meet and talk to Maxar people, find Maxar people who are open to talk, get them talk, and help them by technical means from the background to reach an agreement. Then if required, be the other party in the agreement, and keep it running.

Even it’d be useful to actually try and gather people who can and want to be involved in talking to Maxar and find solutions. My guess is that there are some (I can help in many aspects, but not in personal meetings).

I do not know anyone at Maxar, and I do not live nearby to actually meet them in person and try to fix the flaws in their understanding of what we need, what we offer, and what they may or may not actually lose; also I am not a registered organisation; I believe I am not fit for doing that instead of the Board.

Sidenote: I disagree to pay even a cent. It’s a slippery slope. We’re a nonprofit foundation. They can support us, for example, by the whatever value they think their service is worth. My problem with that, generally, is that I’ve been told that someone supported us by some unknown means using unknown amount of unknown resources, so I cannot even judge whether it has been a viable solution to seek, or it was an unsustainable waste of money (or else).

Note that such strategy was already attempted

If someone here has contact with people in Maxar (or other organization with similar resources), then I would encourage them to contact OSMF.

Put an article on the OSMF blog, submit it to Hacker News?

HN-frontpage-driven support can work wonders, if stories of people unjustly banned by Google, FB etc. are any indication of that. In the comments you found employees reading HN able to internally escalate stuff by pulling the right strings.

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I would definitely prevent to open my mouth before I put my brain in gear.

First, whatever we do we shall be knowledgeable about it, leaving no space for guesswork.

Then, we want Maxar to help us, to sponsor us, so we want be be extremely friendly and nice. They are a business and we really shall understand that they have exactly zero amount of obligation to help us or anyone. We shall convince them that supporting us causes them no harm and add a great value to the humanity at large.

So we could seek for help, but definitely shall avoid even the hint of attacking. IMnsHO.


I took note but don’t see any follow ups.

Obviously not. Would you agree to spam all the social networks looking for someone(s) who can help communicating with 'em? I am not entirely sure that’d be a great idea…

I was thinking about framing this as people abusing our tokens.

no, and not sure why you thought that I proposed doing that?

This communication attempts were not made in publicly accessible spaces

This is not comparable with your typical government or company data incidental to their business situation. Sat imagery is one of Maxars core products and while there are examples of sponsorship for use of actual products see fastly and AWS, the big difference is that the sponsorship doesn’t impact sales of their products to other customers.

As to the rest, as you already knew, and as @Mateusz_Konieczny pointed out again, talking to contacts with Maxar has already been tried repeatedly. There is no real leverage to force Maxar in to negotiations as you seem to be impying, so it seems that’s essentially it till there are changes at Maxar.

PS: if you are if the opinion that Maxar is too far out of your territory you could always try to negotiate with the other duopolist https://www.airbus.com/en/space/earth-observation/satellite-imagery


I didn’t, apologies if it came through as such. I loosely reflected to all the posts and some of the (not preferable) potential choices.

I have been told multiple times that there were no follow ups after the first bunch of tries (talking, even meeting, yadda yadda, I tried to read everything that was posted), but also I’ve been suggested that the matter was not closed, but “someone” “is waiting” for “their” response which will, possibly never come.

I do not expect to actually read the conversation, nor that the people involved have to be public information. But I would rather expect periodic status reports until the matter is either resolved or we are directed to leave and have sexual intercourse with ourselves, so to speak.

It really should not impact theirs, since OSM mappers cannot use the imagery in their everyday business products, they cannot sell or resell it, they canot even practically use it for anything else, apart from viewing, but for that google maps is there free of charge as well.

We guess that they had problem with people abusing their keys, but we also guess that they have used this problem to justify they wish to kick us out anyway, even if it wouldn’t cause any problems. We guess that they are not open to solutions, they do not even specify the problem, only use vague handwaving (which is understandable if they reconsidered supporting us, at least from the completely unethical two-faced business approach).

We do have several solutions for the guessed (or preceived) problems, in case anyone would worry about real business impact.

Yes. It has been repeatedly mentioned at least four thousand times now, thank you.

I am slightly offended that you attribute things to me that I did not write. In fact I mentioned several times that they have no obligations to support anyone.

Our “leverage” to support us is our mission and the fact that we are no business competitor to them. And that we can solve real technical problems, in case there would be any.

If I understand correctly nobody from them actually said “no”, right?

I have never met anyone doing business with them but sure, I’ll ask around.

Last try: misuse of the API keys is what Maxar stated as the reason for a) requiring the keys not being made public, and b) rotating the keys, further they were fully aware of alternatives to per app keys. Multiple people (including myself) in OSM were in contact with Maxar every time they rotated the keys.

No guessing at all required and no need to keep restarting the topic again and again.

Once all the upsets at Maxar are through it -might- make sense to try to restart a conversation, but right now IMHO it is just wasting time.