The Billboard Map, operated by the Spatial Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California, is an experimental platform for studying online community mapping and theory, interface design, and other topics. This document describes how we keep your private data private, the rules on your use of data contained on this site, and what will happen to your contributions if you choose to contribute.



Privacy policy


Data We Collect


Identifying information. If you register with the Billboard Map, we ask you to supply a username and your e-mail address. Your e-mail address is not visible to other people, but your username will be seen by others in various contexts. Notably, your username is associated with any edits you make, and others can see a list of these edits.


Logging. To accomplish our research, we need to monitor how people use the system. This includes, among other things, recording:


  • when you log in
  • pages or regions you request
  • edits you make

 If you register and log in, the logs associate these activities with your username. Otherwise, they are associated with your IP address.


Other private data. As a registered user, you can enter personal information about geographic objects. These data are not visible to others, with limited exceptions outlined below. We will never share these data in a way where you (or your username) could be identified. 


Cookies. When you use Billboard Map, we may set cookies in your browser. These help identify you and store your preferences. They are not shared with other sites and are not used for advertisements.


Special events. We occasionally run contests, conduct surveys, and/or implement additional features for the purpose of our research. Participation in these "extras" is optional. This privacy policy does not apply to these activities; they are conducted under their own policies, which will be clearly disclosed beforehand.


Removing your data. Due to the way in which we archive data, it is generally not possible to completely remove your personal data from our systems. However, if you have specific concerns, please contact us and we will see what we can do.


Personal data. The term personal data refers to logged data regarding your interactions with the system.


When We Will Contact You


If you do not register, we will never contact you.


If you do register occasionally, we will send e-mail messages to you announcing new features, explaining changes to the system, or inviting you to participate in research studies or other special events. You can opt out of these e-mails; contact us in this case.


What Is Shared With Third Parties


We will never release e-mail addresses to third parties under any circumstances. We will also never share your personal data unless (a) it cannot be associated with you or your username, and (b) it is necessary to accomplish our research goals. Specifically, we may share your anonymized personal data with research study participants, other researchers, or in scholarly work describing our research. For example, we might use an edit of a billboard entry as an illustration in a paper or publish statistics about which regions of the metro area the user community browses most.


Contributions you make to our text and geographic wikis (i.e., edits made to non-personal data) are widely available to others; see below for details.


Aside from the above, information is held as confidentially as is practical within our secured database.


Security Measures


Members of the research teams are made aware of our privacy policy and practices by reviewing this statement upon joining the team. We follow industry best practices to secure user data, and access to the database and logs are limited to members of the research group and system administration staff.


What you may do with Billboard Map data


Billboard Map data, both geographic and non-geographic, except for personal data as noted above, are redistributable and modifiable under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. You may copy, distribute, and display the data. You may also modify it, and redistribute the modified version, but only if you redistribute the modified data under the same or a similar license. You may do these things only (a) if you clearly attribute us as the source, and (b) for noncommercial purposes. Details. (Note that simply using the Billboard Map in a commercial setting does not invoke the no-commercial-use restriction unless this use is generating nontrivial profit.)


Data should be attributed to "Billboard Map community”.


If you redistribute geographic data obtained from Billboard Map, you may be obligated to include the disclaimers below.  Billboard Map cannot advise you on whether this is required for your application.


If you do use Billboard Map data in an interesting way, it would be appreciated if you contact us. We would like to know how it is benefiting people.


If you would like to make use of Billboard Map data and the terms above are not acceptable, please contact us. Other arrangements are possible.


What you agree to if you edit Billboard Map




We have two major goals for the data users contribute. These data are available to individuals and nonprofits for use, modification and redistribution at no cost (or for a nominal fee in case of bulk transfers, to cover our expenses). We will also make the data available for commercial uses, but we may require those who benefit financially from the work of the community to contribute financial support back to the community.


If you edit Billboard Map, you grant the University of Southern California permission to use your contributions however we like, trusting us to do the right thing under the guidelines above. However, you give us this permission non-exclusively, meaning that you yourself still own your contribution and can still do whatever else with it that you like.


We ask you to grant us these broad permissions, rather than something more narrowly tailored to the goals stated above, because they allow us to do two things. First, they let us change the legal details by which we keep the data available to the community; this is important because the legal environment can change and we need to be able to respond without obtaining permission from every single contributor. Second, they give us the flexibility necessary to negotiate fee agreements with businesses.


You must not contribute data to Billboard Map which you do not own. For example, do not copy other maps. If people do this, it can cause major legal headaches for us.


Legal details


In contributing to Billboard Map, you agree, by submitting your contribution, to grant the University of Southern California a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive, sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, and exercise all copyright and publicity rights with respect to your contribution worldwide and/or to incorporate your contribution in other works in any media now known or later developed for the full term of any rights that may exist in your contribution.


If you do not want to grant to the University the rights set out above, you must not submit your contribution to Billboard Map.


By submitting your contribution to Billboard Map, you:


  • warrant that your contribution contains only data that you have the right to make available to the University for all the purposes specified above, is not defamatory, and does not infringe any law; and
  • indemnify the University against all legal fees, damages and other expenses that may be incurred by the University as a result of your breach of the above warranty; and
  • waive any moral rights in your contribution for the purposes specified above.

This license does not apply to data about you, covered in the Privacy Policy above.




There is no assurance that anything in Billboard Map is correct. You use this system entirely at your own risk.