Privacy and Waze

Today we received questions about a research report and subsequent news article which claimed that Wazer privacy could be compromised and users could be followed if a hacker exploited our network.

The Waze ecosystem is built upon trust and deep respect for all of you - real-time traffic simply doesn’t work without the participation of our community, and we are constantly reviewing and adding safeguards to protect our users. Please read further as we address a few severe misconceptions from related news coverage and explain how Waze thinks about privacy. User accounts were not compromised, there was no server breach and Wazer account data is safe.

First: a stranger cannot search for / find your Wazer on the map and follow you. Those adorable Wazers you see ‘driving’ past you on the map are minutes old, and a random snapshot of activity in the area, not an absolute illustration. So, why are they there? When Waze first entered new countries, marking community members on the map was a way to verify to newbies that the community was thriving locally and that traffic information was current. (Imagine logging into a social networking site and not seeing any other profiles...not a very compelling experience! Building a driving community works similarly.) Now, more than 50 million navigators receive comfort from those icons on the map, a reminder that we are all in this together and there are others ahead in your journey who may be able to help. In the event of an emergency like a snowstorm or evacuation, you also have the ability to message someone ahead to gather real-time information that could save your life.

The reporter in the article gave her location and username to the research team which greatly simplified the process of deducing sections of her route after the fact by using a system of ghost riders. We appreciate the researchers bringing this to our attention and have implemented safeguards in the past 24 hours to address the vulnerability and prevent ghost riders from affecting system behavior and performing similar tracking activities. None of these activities have occurred in real-time and in real-world environments, without knowing participants.

Waze regularly examines the security of our system and we expect to test and implement further security measures as any company does. Public discussion of the details of these safeguards is intentionally limited.

Wazers choose how much or how little information they give. You can always use invisible mode, meaning your icon will not show on the map. However by nature of being invisible you will appear as Offline to your friends, and you will not be able to send reports or add and edit places while using Waze. To turn on invisibility mode, go to Menu → My Waze (tap your name and icon) → Turn on “Go Invisible.” This setting resets after every use, because the majority of Wazers have joined Waze for the value of the community. They believe we are all in this together, and understand that the network works best when we each share a bit of our own information. For example, we added user phone number to the registration process when drivers told us they would rather share their location with those in their phone book than those in their Facebook network. By doing so, our users are now able to add ‘real world’ friends and share their routes in progress and estimated times of arrival, reducing distracted texting and calls behind the wheel.

More information on the use and storage of user data can be found in our privacy policy.

Nothing is more important than the relationships we’ve built with our drivers and we look forward to continuing to build our global community in open conversation with all of you.

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