Changes to Google Maps Platform Terms of Service

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    Craig W
    Expired Member
    Post count: 22

    Hey GeoTeam and GeoCommunity:

    This Google Maps Platform thing may have broader implications for anyone using / relying on Google Maps … and especially the GeoDirectory community. Most of the discussions I have read here and around the web all seem to focus on the changes in the pricing model and the changes to the APIs.

    However, I have not found anyone really discussing the revised Terms of Service for Google Maps that goes into effect on June 11, 2018 when the Google Maps Platform goes live.

    Specifically, Section 3 of the updated Terms of Service concerning the License, restrictions on certain use(s) of the APIs and the data they return (defined as “map content”) are worth reviewing and considering their implications for your site / application.

    I am not a lawyer or legal guru, but some of the things I read in the new terms are worthy of discussion. Please chime in with your thoughts and feedback. Here are the Links to the new Maps Platform Terms of Service and Service Specific Terms for various Maps Platform functionality.

    I copied relevant portions of the Terms of Use and pasted it below my comments for convenience in discussing the implications.

    Section 3.1 Grants the License. I see no issues with this.

    3.1 License Grant. Subject to this Agreement’s terms, during the Term, Google grants to Customer a non-exclusive, non-transferable, non-sublicensable, license to use the Services in Customer Application(s), which may be: (a) fee-based or non-fee-based; (b) public/external or private/internal; (c) business-to-business or business-to-consumer; or (d) asset tracking.

    Section 3.2 Adds “restrictions” on the License Grant for specific uses. From what I read, the sub-sections of Section 3.2 could create several issues for directory sites and site owners. Of primary concern are Sections 3.2.3 and 3.2.4.

    3.2 License Requirements and Restrictions. The following are conditions of the license granted in Section 3.1. In this Section 3.2, the phrase “Customer will not” means “Customer will not, and will not permit a third party to”.

    3.2.2 General Restrictions. Unless Google specifically agrees in writing, Customer will not: (a) copy, modify, create a derivative work of, reverse engineer, decompile, translate, disassemble, or otherwise attempt to extract any or all of the source code (except to the extent such restriction is expressly prohibited by applicable law); (b) sublicense, transfer, or distribute any of the Services; (c) sell, resell, or otherwise make the Services available as a commercial offering to a third party; or (d) access or use the Services: (i) for High Risk Activities; (ii) in a manner intended to avoid incurring Fees; (iii) for activities that are subject to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) maintained by the United States Department of State; (iv) on behalf of or for the benefit of any entity or person who is legally prohibited from using the Services; or (v) to transmit, store, or process Protected Health Information (as defined in and subject to HIPAA).

    Section 3.2.3(c): Gives Google the right to review the site(s) / application(s) to ensure Compliance.

    3.2.3 Requirements for Using the Services.

    (a) End User Terms and Privacy Policy. Customer’s End User terms of service will state that End Users’ use of Google Maps is subject to the then-current Google Maps/Google Earth Additional Terms of Service at and Google Privacy Policy at

    (b) Attribution. Customer will display all attribution that (i) Google provides through the Services (including branding, logos, and copyright and trademark notices); or (ii) is specified in the Service Specific Terms. Customer will not modify, obscure, or delete such attribution.

    (c) Review of Customer Applications. At Google’s request, Customer will submit Customer Application(s) and Project(s) to Google for review to ensure compliance with the Agreement (including the AUP).

    Now for the really critical stuff … what Google classifies as “Misuse” of the Services. Pay special attention to:

    • Section 3.2.4(a)(i)-(iii),
    • Section 3.2.4(b),
    • Very important – Section 3.2.4(c) and especially 3.2.4(c)(ii), 3.2.4(c)(iii), and 3.2.4(c)(iv), and
    • Section 3.2.4(d)

    3.2.4 Restrictions Against Misusing the Services.

    (a) No Scraping. Customer will not extract, export, or scrape Google Maps Content for use outside the Services. For example, Customer will not:(i) pre-fetch, cache, index, or store Google Maps Content for more than 30 days; (ii) bulk download geocodes; or (iii) copy business names, addresses, or user reviews.

    (b) No Creating Content From Google Maps Content. Customer will not create content based on Google Maps Content, including tracing, digitizing, or creating other datasets based on Google Maps Content.

    (c) No Re-Creating Google Products or Features. Customer will not use the Services to create a product or service with features that are substantially similar to or that re-create the features of another Google product or service. Customer’s product or service must contain substantial, independent value and features beyond the Google products or services. For example, Customer will not: (i) re-distribute the Google Maps Core Services or pass them off as if they were Customer’s services; (ii) create a substitute of the Google Maps Core Services, Google Maps, or Google Maps mobile apps, or their features; (iii) use the Google Maps Core Services in a listings or directory service or to create or augment an advertising product; (iv) combine data from the Directions API, Geolocation API, and Maps SDK for Android to create real-time navigation functionality substantially similar to the functionality provided by the Google Maps for Android mobile app.

    (d) No Use With Non-Google Maps. Customer will not use the Google Maps Core Services in a Customer Application that contains a non-Google map. For example, Customer will not (i) display Places listings on a non-Google map, or (ii) display Street View imagery and non-Google maps in the same Customer Application.

    (e) No Circumventing Fees. Customer will not circumvent the applicable Fees. For example, Customer will not create multiple billing accounts or Projects to avoid incurring Fees; prevent Google from accurately calculating Customer’s Service usage levels; abuse any free Service quotas; or offer access to the Services under a “time-sharing” or “service bureau” model.

    (f) No Use in Prohibited Territories. Customer will not distribute or market in a Prohibited Territory any Customer Application(s) that use the Google Maps Core Services.

    (g) No Use in Embedded Vehicle Systems. Customer will not use the Google Maps Core Services in connection with any Customer Application or device embedded in a vehicle. For example, Customer will not create a Customer Application that (i) is embedded in an in-dashboard automotive infotainment system; and (ii) allows End Users to request driving directions from the Directions API.

    (h) No Modifying Search Results Integrity. Customer will not modify any of the Service’s search results.

    (i) No Use for High Risk Activities. Customer will not use the Google Maps Core Services for High Risk Activities.

    Then, there is Section 4.2 …

    4.2 Compliance. Customer will: (a) ensure that Customer’s and its End Users’ use of the Services complies with the Agreement, including the applicable Services’ AUP and URL Terms; and (b) use commercially reasonable efforts to prevent, promptly notify Google of, and terminate any unauthorized use of or access to its Account(s) or the Services.

    And then, Section 5.1 … Violations of License Restrictions

    5.1 For License Restrictions Violations. Google may Suspend the Services without prior notice if Customer breaches Section 3.2 (License Requirements and Restrictions).

    Section 11.5 regarding Termination and the clauses that survive Termination:

    11.5 Effects of Termination.

    11.5.1 If the Agreement is terminated, then: (a) the rights granted by one party to the other will immediately cease; (b) all Fees owed by Customer to Google are immediately due upon receipt of the final electronic bill; and (c) Customer will delete the Software and any content from the Services by the termination effective date.

    11.5.2 The following will survive expiration or termination of the Agreement: Section 2 (Payment Terms), Section 3.2 (License Requirements and Restrictions), Section 4.5 (Data Use, Protection, and Privacy), Section 6 (Intellectual Property; Feedback), Section 10 (Confidential Information), Section 11.5 (Effects of Termination), Section 14 (Disclaimer), Section 15 (Indemnification), Section 16 (Limitation of Liability), Section 19 (Miscellaneous), and Section 20 (Definitions).

    And finally, the Definitions in Section 20. I included only the ones that seem to be most applicable. It is important to note that Google defines the “Google Maps Content” as a component part of the Services covered by the License Grant and the License Restrictions.

    20. Definitions.
    “Account” means Customer’s Google Account.

    “AUP” or “Acceptable Use Policy” means the then-current Acceptable Use Policy for the Services at:

    “Customer Application” means any web domain or application (including features) listed in the Admin Console.

    “Customer End User” or “End User” means an individual or entity that Customer permits to use the Services or Customer Application(s).

    “Customer Indemnified Materials” means the Customer Application and Customer Brand Features.

    “Google Indemnified Materials” means Google’s technology used to provide the Services (excluding any open source software) and Google’s Brand Features.

    “Google Maps Content” means any content provided through the Services (whether created by Google or its third-party licensors), including map and terrain data, imagery, traffic data, and places data (including business listings).

    “Indemnified Liabilities” means any (a) settlement amounts approved by the indemnifying party; and (b) damages and costs finally awarded against the indemnified party and its Affiliates by a court of competent jurisdiction.

    “including” means “including but not limited to”.

    “Intellectual Property Rights” means current and future worldwide rights under patent, copyright, trade secret, trademark, and moral rights laws, and other similar rights.

    “Legal Process” means a data disclosure request made under law, governmental regulation, court order, subpoena, warrant, governmental regulatory or agency request, or other valid legal authority, legal procedure, or similar process.

    “Package Purchase” has the meaning set out in the Service Specific Terms.

    “Personal Data” has the meaning provided in the General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of April 27, 2016.

    “Prohibited Territory” means the countries listed at

    “Project” means a Customer-selected grouping of Google Maps Core Services resources for a particular Customer Application.

    “Services” and “Google Maps Core Services” means the services described at The Services include the Google Maps Content.

    “Service Specific Terms” means the terms specific to one or more Services set forth here:

    “Software” means any downloadable tools, software development kits or other such proprietary computer software provided by Google in connection with the Services, which may be downloaded by Customer, and any updates Google may make to such Software.

    “Terms URL” means the following URL set forth here:

    “Third-Party Legal Proceeding” means any formal legal proceeding filed by an unaffiliated third party before a court or government tribunal (including any appellate proceeding).

    “Trademark Guidelines” means (a) Google’s Brand Terms and Conditions, located at:; and (b) the “Use of Trademarks” section of the “Using Google Maps, Google Earth and Street View” permissions page at policy.

    “URL Terms” means the following, which will control in the following order if there is a conflict:

    (a) the AUP;

    (b) the Google Maps/Google Earth Legal Notices at;

    (c) the Google Maps/Google Earth Additional Terms of Service at;

    (d) the Service Specific Terms;

    (e) the SLA; and

    (f) the Technical Support Services Guidelines.

    Given the new terms, is it still reasonable to use Google Maps Platform for a directory where members (customers) pay to get listed in the directory? It would seem that this sort of site is what Google is specifically trying to prevent from using its services … or any part of them.



    Site Admin
    Post count: 31205

    Hi Craig,

    I have to admit that I didn’t dive deeply enough into the new terms of service as I did for the price changes, so this is the 1st time I’m reading that part.

    I’m not a lawyer too, but I came to the same conclusion as you. It appears that Google doesn’t want developers to use the maps API to create directories just like we do.

    I’ll discuss this with a lawyer asap to see if we have to ditch Google Maps for good, fortunately we have the integration with Open Street Map that is already in place.

    We’ll also look which other maps options we have.

    I’ll keep you posted.

    Thanks for bringing this up, we only have 9 days, but we won’t get to the deadline completely unprepared.



    Craig W
    Expired Member
    Post count: 22

    Thanks for jumping on this Paolo. If we are both coming to the same conclusion then we are probably reading it right and that’s a big deal for you guys, for me, and for everyone in the GD Community.

    Fortunately, the OpenStreetMap is a workable fallback.

    Google is global and the legal implications may be different in different countries. With respect to the USA, it will be important to know how the terms would be interpreted / applied in a California court since that is the applicable jurisdiction.

    Maybe the GD Showcase site will be helpful to everyone:

    Possible alternatives in addition to OpenStreetMaps:

    Bing Maps
    APIs / SDKs:
    Tech Docs:

    WP Plugin:

    MapFit would likely be more affordable than Bing for active sites. MapFit’s maps are not that pretty but they are functional. It could be promising for some use cases and certain types of directories. Unfortunately, they do have a prohibition on “Business Listings” types of sites, but they also offer Enterprise Agreements that may provide more directory friendly provisions.

    With Bing, it appears that the real details of permitted and prohibited uses will lie within the various provisions included in the terms of service agreements and licensing agreements. Since it is Microsoft it will take some decent lawyers and some cash in the bank since Microsoft rarely offers anything for free that is not monetized in some way.

    Hope this is helpful. And, I look forward to updates from you, the GD Team, and the community.


    Site Admin
    Post count: 31205

    MapBox is another valid alternative

    However they use OSM technology, so if it is confirmed that we need to get rid of Google Maps, I think we should definitely look into investing everything into OSM and continue providing a free tool to our users.



    Craig W
    Expired Member
    Post count: 22
    This reply has been marked as private.

    Stiofan O’Connor
    Site Admin
    Post count: 22954

    The only thing that really concerns me is 3.2.4 c (iii) which is hope is just referring to using Google places info in a directory (which we don’t do). Plenty of directories use Google maps, like yelp and airbnb.

    I have asked for clarification from Google but at this point i’m not too worried and even if it is the case we can no longer use Google maps we already have an alternative and we would add more.




    Site Admin
    Post count: 31205

    My best guess is similar website as big as yelp and airbnb will get written consent and pay (big money) for the service.

    Unless they wrote it wrong, the new TOS doesn’t live much space to interpretation:

    This time it doesn’t talk about Google Places only, but Google Maps Core Services

    (iii) use the Google Maps Core Services in a listings or directory service

    According to their new TOS Google Maps Core Services include:

    Directions API
    Distance Matrix API
    Geocoding API
    Geolocation API
    Maps Embed API
    Maps Elevation API
    Maps JavaScript API
    Maps SDK for Android
    Maps SDK for iOS
    Maps Static API
    Places API for Web
    Places Library, Maps JavaScript API
    Places SDK for Android
    Places SDK for iOS
    Roads API
    Street View API
    Time Zone API

    Source :

    We use most of them in a listings or directory service, so…


    Craig W
    Expired Member
    Post count: 22

    Stiofan, thanks for looking more deeply into this and for checking with Google. It will be very interesting to hear what they have to say, and I’m looking forward to any insights you can provide.

    Yes, 3.2.4c(iii) sounded the major alarm bells since its wording strikes at the very heart of your core product and a main pillar of my business model and monetization strategy.

    When considering together the general restrictions of 3.2 and 3.2.2 with 3.2.4 … and especially 3.2.4c(ii) … it’s hard to imagine how to use Google’s robust APIs without violating the new Terms of Service to build a listings site that is essentially “an advertising service.”

    What’s sad is that such a service is actually making / consuming API calls which they are now monetizing more aggressively. So they would actually benefit financially.

    Logically it would seem that this stems from:

    1. concerns over exposure to potential legal liability (GDPR ?), OR
    2. they are trying to prevent “competition” with MyBusiness, OR
    3. they are having a major issue with people scraping / reusing / augmenting their “content” and they are looking for the legal standing to stop it and seek damages from violators.

    All three (and especially the last one) could explain why they insist on having billing information to even access the APIs.

    By creating the billing account it is clear evidence of the contractual relationship (new terms of service apply), and they have verified identity and billing address information they can use in service of legal processes.

    Thanks again for checking into this and reporting back the details.


    Site Admin
    Post count: 31205

    When we started back in 2011 there were a hand full of scripts that would integrate the Google Maps API as we do.

    Today on Theme Forest alone there are 133 themes doing similar things and another good number of them are sold independently like GeoDirectory.

    My assumption is that the vast majority of sites built using these scripts (+95%) are low traffic websites that would stay within the free limits, but that collectively make way to many calls to the API and that cost Google a fortune.

    Thus the new TOS. If you are big enough to be able to pay a substantial amount of money like airbnb or yelp, you’ll get the green light, all others will be pushed to alternative solutions.

    If that is the case, it would make sense…


    Craig W
    Expired Member
    Post count: 22

    Yes, Paolo. That is exactly what I understood their intent to be … to stop anyone from using any of their services (without a special “contract” that allows it) for such use cases. And, they do not want people to use their data / content with any other GIS / Mapping service or to create other data sets.

    This could be interpreted as … if you use a different geocoding service to store Lat/Long info, you cannot use the Google APIs to display a map or a map location pin, or any info about any building, place, point of interest, or anything about that location.

    So even if your listings has its own details, store hours, photos, videos, ratings / reviews and gets the GeoCode from Google’s APIs and caches it for < 30 days and then uses the GeoCode to display a map with details, because “reviews”, “photos”, “videos”, and business hours are all “substantially similar functionality” to what Google MyBusiness / Places content offers … the terms would seem to prohibit such use cases.

    Makes me wonder what Google has in the works for MyBusienss + AdWords Express … since they have been expanding the MyBusiness capabilities to offer farm more than just a “listing”, map view, and ratings / reviews.



    Craig W
    Expired Member
    Post count: 22

    Yes, Paolo, there are now a number of competing scripts, plugins, and themes. And all of them MUST use one (or more) of the relatively few mapping data / GIS data providers. And again, the Big Tech companies are wielding their market power (and in some cases, monopoly power) to stifle competition and innovation.

    For instance, in Office 365 Business Premium Microsoft includes “Business Central” which offers the ability to automatically generate listings for the Organization’s billing address on Bing Places, Google MyBusiness, and Yelp!. Microsoft has also tied in Facebook pages.

    The way the definitions in Section 20 at the bottom of the TOS are defined and the wording they use throughout lead me to believe that their desire and intent is to kill the small / low volume directories you mention and any other directory that does not offer (in their words) “… substantial, independent value and features beyond the Google products or services” per 3.2.4(c).

    Thus, the critical question is: what does Google consider to be “substantial, independent value and features beyond the Google products or services?”

    Because Google retains the right to review the Customer application (use / use cases) and retains the right to suspend service with / without notice and specifically refers to violations of Section 3.2 at that point … it would seem that Google’s opinion and interpretation is the only one that matters.

    Hopefully Google will reply to Stiofan’s inquiry soon with clarification and good news.

    The best news of all though is that GeoDirectory has an alternative source (OpenStreetMaps) and is willing to add others who will play nicely with us on our playground. 🙂

    Thanks to both of you for your attention to this and hard work!


    Stiofan O’Connor
    Site Admin
    Post count: 22954

    Well my email to the google maps sales department seems to confirm we can still use it for directory sites.

    Its not a 100% definitive answer but its from the horses mouth (see attachment).



    Full Member
    Post count: 375

    Definitely not 100% definitive but a good omen. Google have been very murky these days with what they are allowing and not with their various services. Keep pushing for something definitive from a senior management or legal rep from Google and keep supporting and developing the OSM option as we have seen that companies like Google and Facebook can change direction at a drop of the hat.


    Full Member
    Post count: 375

    Just saw this. Not sure if you may want to look into it but it may be an alternative.


    Site Admin
    Post count: 31205

    We got an answer here too:!topic/maps/MU-HHZe2LSE;context-place=topicsearchin/maps/authorid$3AAPn2wQdyiTFLJJ8EaWvhgyVEoj0pxpOerKsSLCvoxZPpOrNqDgzCtRDcjjv1hCCtDOQCLABl7dKa%7Csort:date%7Cspell:false

    For the moment we will just write a blog post to alert everyone about that clause.

    Google doesn’t seems to be wanting to go to war with directories at the moment, but they sure leave a door open with that clause and people should be aware that from one day to another, they could be forced to move to an alternative, even if they are willing to pay.


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