Sunday, March 16, 2008

Links to Recent Spatial Law Matters is a link to an article from information sent to me by Carl Reed. The article discusses how an author of two books on Google believes that the company may develop a business plan around its patented bus transportation process - currently used to transport its Bay Area employees. According to the article, the system combines Google's mapping technology and GPS and is linked to employees' cell phones to inform them real time when buses are approaching. One can easily see the numerous benefits of this technology for consumers. However, one can just as easily see privacy advocates expressing concerns about the potential implications. is a link to a article that explains how police officers responding to a 911 call were sent to the wrong address based upon information provided by a computer mapping system designed for such occassions. Apparently, there were at least three identical street addresses in the system for the neighborhoods covered. It appears from the article that the mistake was at least partially due to human error, for not clarifying which neighborhood the crime occurred and for not checking a secondary computer system - which indicated that there were three such addresses. However, one can imagine a plaintiff's lawyers asking why the primary system did not provide the same information. According to one official, "In this particular case there was an over-reliance on the new technology."

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Interesting Links is a link to a piece by Bruce Joffe on a California assemblyman's attempt to define "computer mapping systems" for purposes of excluded items for disclosure under the state's Public Records Act. Bruce does not agree with the assemblyman's approach. is a link to a Google Earth posting about Google's Street View photos of defense facilities and the Department of Defenses reaction. Given the rapid changes in spatial technology and the growth of the industry, these type of situations are bound to occur. However, it appears based upon these accounts that both Google and the Department of Defense reacted appropriately and reasonably.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Recent Press Reports on Spatial Law Matters

The following link is to an Indian newspaper account of how Indian authorities still attempt to control maps of the country - particularly maps of its borders - from being imported into the country via foreign magazines. Another example of the power of maps - and the measures that governments and nations will take to control access to them.

In a somewhat related matter, at least in my mind, is a link to an editorial in a New London, Connecticut newspaper regarding a controversial bill in the state legislature. According to the article, one part of the bill entitled “An Act Exempting Certain Public Service Company Records and Adjusting the Cost of Obtaining Public Records” would allow public utilities to restrict access to certain information for homeland security purposes. The second part of the bill relates to government outsourcing of data collection, including spatial data. Under the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act, state agencies are limited on what they can charge the public for the data once it has been collected. However, the proposed law would allow the cost of providing information to the public to be defined in the contract between the state or other government agency and the private contractor.

I have not studied the bill in great detail and have mixed feelings with regards to the opinions expressed in the editorial piece. However, I will point out that one of the unique aspects of spatial data is that it can have many uses. For example, a single data set can be useful for both homeland security purposes as well as for commercial or academic purposes. Any attempts to restrict or limit access to spatial data for one purpose, may have unintended consequences for other applications and uses.