About OpenPaths

OpenPaths is a secure data locker for personal location information.

Using our mobile apps you can track your location, visualize where you've been, and upload your data to the OpenPaths website. You can then download your data from the website in a variety of friendly formats, including KML, JSON, and CSV. The OpenPaths API enables you to integrate your own software with the platform, and you can import data from location-based services like Foursquare.

You can keep your location history to yourself, or you can share it with specific research initiatives, art projects, or educational programs as you so choose. The OpenPaths online interface allows you to manage who has access to your data. Regardless, your data is always encrypted on the OpenPaths servers, and cannot be accessed by anyone without your express consent.

Why did we create OpenPaths? We inhabit a world where data are being collected about us on a massive scale. These data are being stored, analyzed and monetized primarily by corporations; there is limited agency for the people whom the data actually represent. We believe that people who generate data through their own day-to-day activities should have a right to keep a copy of that data. When people have access to their personal data in a useful format all kinds of new things become possible. We can become better consumers: for example, we can know whether a monthly rail pass makes sense for us, or which data-plan would be most economical for our smartphone usage. More importantly, when our personal data is readily accessible and under our control we can become active collaborators in the quest for solutions to important social problems in areas such as public health, genetics or urban planning.

At the most basic level we hope that people who choose to use OpenPaths will use the visualization tools on this site to derive some personal insight, and that they'll find the process of exploring their personal data enjoyable and fun. That's the personal use part. Beyond that, our goal is to provide a platform for researchers, artists, and technologists to propose projects for the use of this data. These proposals are directed to the individual data owners who can then choose to make their data available — or not. The governing philosophy is that citizens should grow to recognize the importance of the data that we generate in our daily lives. And while large organizations may rightly maintain a copy of our data for business purposes, we should be allowed to maintain a copy for own use as well.

OpenPaths is a community project initiated by the Research and Development Lab at the New York Times Company. In Fall 2016, management of OpenPaths was transferred to researchers at UC San Diego and became a part of the Health Data Exploration Project, a project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. To get in touch with us, send an e-mail to info@hdexplore.calit2.net.