Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Lessons From the Search for Steve Fossett posts a well-written article on the problems encountered by having volunteers using satellite and aerial imagery to try and locate lost avaitor Steve Fossett with Amazon Mechanical Turk. A number of the problems listed had to do with the quality of the imagery for the particular application or the coordination and interfaces that were needed. However, the article also states that individuals did not read or follow the instructions given to them and volunteers did not understand what they were seeing on an image ("the complete inabilities of many participants to be able identify the difference between natural objects like dead trees, rocks, shadows, etc. and foreign objects that did not belong like airplane wreckage").

In developing consumer products and services using spatial data, a company should always keep the human element in mind - its products and/or services may be used by individuals who are not qualified and/or who do not follow instructions. Preparing for this in advance can help a company reduce its risk of liability.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Privacy-related links

The Washington Post reports on an attempt by consumer groups to have the Federal Trade Commission implement a "Do Not Track" registry, which would allow consumers to prevent companies from tracking which websites they visit. It is modeled after the Do Not Call list that was developed by the FTC and prevented telemarketers from calling those numbers on the list. As the article notes, there are a number of challenges, both technological and operational to implement such a system. However, it appears to be a concept that the FTC favors in allowing consumers to prevent companies from collecting or using their personal information - including, presumably, location-based information.

Attached is a link to a proposed law in Wisconsin that would prohibit a locality that permits access to its tax records over the internet from allowing those records to be searched by property owner name. By all accounts it has caused a great deal of debate in the state's GIS community.