Bias in Geographic Information Systems: The Case of Google Maps

Date
2021-01-05
Authors
Wagner, Ben
Human, Soheil
Winkler, Till
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Abstract
Users' perception of geographic space depends heavily on geographic information systems (GIS). GIS are the most common way for users to estimate travel time, provide routing information and recommend appropriate forms of transportation. This article analyses how predictions made by Google Maps, one of the most popular GIS, influence users' perceptions and travel choices. To analyze this influence, a pre-study in a classroom setting (n=36) as well as an online survey (n=521) were conducted. We study users intuitive perception of travel time, before using the Google Maps Mobile App as a 'treatment' to see how it influences their perceptions of travel time and choice of transportation type. We then contrast this original Google Maps treatment to a mock-up 'warning label version' of Google which informs users about biases in Google Maps and an 'unbiased version' of Google Maps based on ground truth data. Our analysis suggests that Google Maps systematically underestimates necessary car driving time, which has an impact on users' choice of transportation.
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Keywords
Accountability, Evaluation, and Obscurity of AI Algorithms, accountability, bias, geographic information systems, gis, google maps
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