OpenStreetMap Foundation (OSMF), the world’s largest collaborative mapping community, saw some unusual rise in signups for their memberships, in November 2018. Guillaume Rischard, an MWG(Members of the Working Group) member (and then-board candidate), detected that a large group of OSMF membership applications arrived under suspicious circumstances just when the window for eligibility for voting in the 2018 board election was closing. He later reported this issue to the board on 20th November 2018.
Rischard along with another OSMF MWG member, Steve Friedl released an investigation report on this issue, on 26th December 2018. The report was released to other OSMF members exactly a month later, on 26th Jan 2019.
The OpenStreetMap Foundation is a non-profit company registered in England and Wales, “supporting, but not controlling, the OpenStreetMap Project”. The OSMF calls for an online general meeting once a year, where they elect new members for the board of directors.
The board, however, did not pass a circular resolution that would have rejected these signups. The Membership Working Group (MWG), whose duties include the administration of OSMF memberships, undertook an investigation into the circumstances around this matter.
According to the report, some of the observations that were brought to light include:
- All were Associate members; there’s usually a mix of membership types.
- All had @gmail.com addresses.
- Almost none provided OSM usernames; this is very unusual.
- Many were associated with the IP address of GlobalLogic, an outsourcing firm in India operating in the OSM/mapping world.
- All came in at the last minute in a very concentrated manner.
Rischard in his email addressing his fellow OSMF members wrote, “We have uncovered evidence that the company behind the campaign, GlobalLogic, is not being truthful, and that the members did not sign up individually. GlobalLogic has provided versions of the event that are contradictory and not credible. We do not know the motivations for this campaign, but strongly suspect that this was an attempt, luckily unsuccessful, to influence the recent OSMF board election.”
In their report, they have stated that “these new members were not eligible to vote in the 2018 AGM, and unless they renew again next year, probably won’t be able to vote in December 2019.”
To know more about this news in detail, read the report, “Investigation into the Unusual Signups”.