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MapStory is an online social cartographic platform developed by the MapStory Foundation since April 2012. Its goal is to empower the community of experts to crowd-source and peer review data within a geospatial and temporal framework. The platform is built upon the OpenGeo software stack.



MapStory was launched in April 2012 by the MapStory Foundation, headed by Dr. Christopher Tucker. The MapStory Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 2011 with the goal of sustaining the global MapStorytelling community. Initial start-up support for the software enabling the MapStory platform was provided by the United States Army Corps of Engineers Engineering Research and Development Center.

MapStory Platform

The MapStory platform is an online cartographic application developed using the GeoNode open-source platform. GeoNode is a spatial data infrastructure solution that extends the OpenGeo Architecture with several advanced features such as participatory or collaborative mapping, advanced customization, social network capabilities and metadata catalog solutions.

The Open Database License (ODbL) from Open Data Commons (ODC) is used for the underlying datasets committed to MapStory. Creative Commons licenses are then used for user representations of data (MapStories). This means that users are free to copy, distribute, transmit and adapt the site's maps and data as long as appropriate citations are being observed.


MapStory serves as a data repository for thematic spatial-temporal visualizations uploaded by the website's registered users. These are called StoryLayers. StoryLayers serve as the building blocks of a MapStory. On the website, StoryLayers are organized based on theme, location, and region and time information. This categorization of StoryLayers facilitate easier access for users in creating a MapStory.

StoryLayer formats vary depending on the type of input file used to display the geospatial and temporal information for the MapStory.

  1. Comma separated value (CSVs) - a text-based dataset which contains columns and rows of information which are delimited by comma.
  2. Shapefiles - common geospatial dataset from GIS (geographic information system) software like ArcGIS and QGIS. Shapefiles are always in vector format, as compared to rasters. This type of dataset is usually a collection of files sharing the same filename but with different file extensions which include but not limited to: .shp, .dbf, .prj, .sbn, .sbx, .shx, .xml, etc.
  3. Rasters - another type of GIS dataset which is generally created by scanning maps, photography and the like. Unlike vector shapefiles, rasters are made up of square picture elements known as pixels.

StoryLayers are the primary elements in developing a spatial-temporal narrative or a MapStory. Creating a MapStory involves the use of two or more StoryLayers, with at least one StoryLayer containing time attributes, as well as annotations like audio, video, photos and text, that collectively make a point about some phenomena of global change. Hence, StoryLayers may or may not have time attributes. To enable MapStory's temporal animation functionality, time attributes should comply with certain technical specifications.

Privacy Policy

The MapStory Foundation is a nonprofit organization with an educational mission. Our goal is to run a reliable and sustainable service that enables you, the user, to share your knowledge with the world and to improve the knowledge shared by others.

We value your privacy. This Privacy Policy describes what information we collect from users of the MapStory Website (“Site” or “”), how we use that information, and how we disclose that information. By using the Site, you consent to the collection and use of personal information in accordance with this policy.


Personal Information

Personal Information We Collect From You

In general, the MapStory Foundation collects and retains the least amount of personally identifiable information needed to fulfill the Projects' operational needs. When you register for the Site, you will be asked for your full name, email address, and a password. Additionally, once you have registered, you may complete a user profile that can include employer and industry information, educational and biographic information, and geographic information. You may also upload a profile picture or avatar. We may also collect information about individual activity on the Site. Additionally, use of the StoryLayers, MapStories, and MapStorytelling features may require you to provide additional personal information and/or data that may contain personal information.

Passive Information We Collect About You

When you visit the Site, some information is automatically collected, such as your IP address, browser type, system type, the content and pages that you access on the Site, the “referring URL” (i.e., the page from which you navigated to, the pages you navigate to on the Site, and from which you leave the Site, as well as the time you spend on the Site. In addition to using Uniform Resource Locators (URL), we also use Cookies [JZ1] to gather information regarding the date and time of your visit and the information for which you searched and viewed. Session and persistent cookies may also be used to better understand how you interact with the Site and our service, to monitor aggregate usage by our users and web traffic routing on the Site, and to improve the Site and our services.

We may also collect information passively using technologies such as standard server logs, cookies, and clear GIFs (also known as “Web beacons”). We use passively-collected information to administer, operate, and improve the Site and our other services and systems, and to provide services and content that are tailored to you. We may aggregate information collected from our users to show statistical data to our potential donors. However, WE WILL NOT SHARE, SELL, RENT, SWAP OR OTHERWISE AUTHORIZE ANY THIRD PARTY TO ACCESS YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION.

Also, please be aware that third parties may set cookies on your hard drive or use other means of collecting information about your use of their services or content. We do not have access to, or control over, these third-party means of passive data collection and do not assume responsibility for such third-party privacy practices.

How We Use Your Information

Personally Identifiable Information

We do not share personal information collected privately from you in a personally identifiable manner. We may aggregate the personal information collected from our users in a non-personally identifiable manner. Aggregate information is information that we collect about a group or category of products, services or customers that is not personally identifiable or from which individual identities are removed. WE MAY USE AND DISCLOSE AGGREGATE INFORMATION, AND OTHER NON-PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION, FOR VARIOUS PURPOSES. WE WILL NOT SHARE, SELL, RENT, SWAP OR OTHERWISE AUTHORIZE ANY THIRD PARTY TO ACCESS YOUR PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION.

Using Your Information to Aggregate Statistics

We may disclose aggregate statistics regarding user behavior as a measure of interest in, and use of, the Site and e-mails to third parties in the form of aggregate data, such as overall patterns or demographic reports that do not describe or identify any individual user. We may also use non-personally identifiable aggregate statistics of our users for internal purposes such as to administer, operate and improve the Site. We may provide your information to third-party services who work on behalf of or with us to provide some of the services and features of the Site or services and to help us communicate with you.[JZ2] Examples of such services may include, but are not limited to, sending emails, analyzing data, and providing marketing assistance. These third-parties are required not to disclose your personal information and not to use your personal information except based on our instructions and in accordance with this Privacy Policy. Any information we disclose or use will be in non-personally identifiable form.

Using Your Information to Improve MapStory

We may also use personal information to provide services and information that you request; to enhance, improve, operate, and maintain, our programs, services, website, and other systems; to prevent fraudulent use of the Site and services; to tailor your user experience; to maintain a record of our dealings with you, and for other administrative purposes.

Disclosing Your Information if Legally Required

We may also disclose personal information if we believe that doing so is legally required or is in our interest to protect our property or other legal rights (including, but not limited to, enforcement of our agreements), or the rights or property of others.


If you provide feedback to us, we may use and disclose such feedback for any purpose, provided we do not associate such feedback with your personal information. We will collect any information contained in such feedback and will treat the personal information in it in accordance with this Privacy Policy.

Third Party Sites and Affiliates

The Site may contain links to other websites. MapStory is not responsible for the privacy practices or the content of these other websites. This Privacy Policy applies solely to information collected by us through the Site or services and does not apply to these third party websites. Users will need to check the privacy policies of these others websites to understand their policies. Users who access a linked site may be disclosing their personal information.

Opt Out

Users may e-mail the Site administrator at to remove user information from our database if they so desire.

Age Restrictions

The Site is not directed to children and children are not eligible to use our Site or services. We do not collect or maintain personal information from people we actually know are under 13 years old, and no part of the Site or services is designed to attract people under 13 years old. If we later obtain actual knowledge that a user is under 13 years old, we will take steps to remove that user's personal information from our databases. Our Site and services are intended for users and visitors over the age of 18. It is our policy that visitors and users of our Site who are between the ages of 13 and 18 do so only with consent of a parent or guardian.

If you are under the age of 18 and have already provided personal information through the site without consent from a parent or guardian, please have your parent or guardian contact us immediately, so that we can remove such information from our files. Your parent or guardian may contact us at

International Visitors

MapStory is hosted in the United States. It is intended to be made accessible by a global audience insofar as its use is permitted by the governing laws of a country. If you visit from the European Union or other regions with laws governing data collection and use that may differ from U.S. law, please be aware that you are transferring personal information to the United States. The United States does not have the same data protection laws as the EU and some other regions. By providing personal information to us, you consent to the transfer of personal information to the United States and the use of personal information in accordance with this Privacy Policy.


We use reasonable security measures that are designed to protect personal information from loss, misuse, and unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration, or destruction. Please note, however, that no data security measures can be guaranteed to be completely effective. Consequently, we cannot ensure or warrant the security of any personal information or other information. You transmit personal information to us at your own risk.

Policy Updates

We may occasionally update this Privacy Policy. When we do, we will also revise the “last updated” date at the top of the Privacy Policy. Your continued use of the Site after such changes will be subject to the then-current Privacy Policy. Notice of material changes will be posted on the Site's homepage and/or will be provided by e-mailing you or notifying you upon login about these changes; the form of such notice is up to our discretion. However, we encourage you to periodically review this Privacy Policy to stay informed about how we collect, use, and disclose personal information.

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