Google to buy traffic app Waze after Facebook deal falls through

Google is poised to acquire Waze, an Israeli traffic and mapping app start-up, for over $1 billion, according to newspaper Haaretz.

Waze’s technology analyses mobile GPS data to compile traffic patterns and allows users to add useful information to crowdsourced maps.

The app has 36 million users around the world, the company said earlier this year.

Social networking giant Facebook was originally in the frame to acquire Waze. However, the deal stalled because Waze was not prepared to relocate to one of Facebook’s R&D centres in Silicon Valley, New York or London. 

According to Haaretz, a condition of the Google deal is that Waze’s R&D centre, and its CEO Noam Bardin, will remain in Israel for at least three years. Google already has two R&D facilities in Israel. 

It would appear that Waze is a hotly contested acquisition target. The company was said to be in buy-out talks with Apple earlier this year.

Haaretz speculates that the reason Google wants to buy Waze, which arguably competes with its own Google Maps application, is to prevent Facebook from starting a mapping division. 

Neither Google or Waze commented on the report.

Several businesses have ran into trouble for using mobile GPS data to analyse customer behaviour. Most recently, mobile operator EE and Ipsos MORI faced a privacy backlash over a project that would allow the market research to sell aggregated mobile usage data including GPS location.

Waze’s users seem happy to share their GPS data, however, perhaps because they derive an immediate benefit, and because the community focus of the app implies shared ownership of the data.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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