Spatial data is unique in that a data set can be used for a variety of purposes: national security, environmental, commercial, infrastructure. The recent tragic events in China are a good example of these qualities. The May 13, Slashgeo Daily Newsletter references a number of articles on China's attempt to regulate companies that provide Internet mapping services, such as Google. Apparently, the Chinese government has expressed both national security concerns as well as the belief that the maps do not accurately portray its borders. Subsequently on May 17, the Google Earth blog reports on efforts around the world to use Google Earth to help visualize the earthquake damage. (Similarly, spatial data is being used to assist relief efforts in Myanmar.)
It is unclear as to what China has done or might do to regulate Internet mapping companies. However, any effort to regulate spatial data in one context may result in unintended detrimental consequences in others. As a result, those who wish to restrict the collection, analysis and/or distribution of spatial data need to look beyond their limited domain in weighing the costs and benefits of such actions.