Thursday, November 26, 2009

Spatial Law and Policy Update (November)

First, I want to apologize for the delay in posting on the site. A combination of extensive travel in the midst of switching law firms made updating my blog more difficult that I had anticipated.

This article from CNET highlights the potential issues that will arise as companies begin to use "crowd-sourced" data to update their spatial data sets. At some point volunteers likely will get tired with following the rules and requirements necessary to make sure the data is accurate and timely.

The Netherlands may soon pass a law that would require cars to be fitted with GPS devices so that they can be taxed for each kilometer that they drive. Two items of note in the article. The first is the broad range of supposed benefits of such tax. The other is the result of the admittedly unscientific poll one can access at the bottom of the article - I am not surprised that privacy is at the top the list, but I am a little surprised by the wide margin.

Many of you probably read about the woman who had her benefits stopped by her employer supposedly as a result of some pictures she posted on her Facebook page. (According to the article she was out on disability due to major depression, but the company believed that pictures she posted on Facebook of her vacation showed she was capable of working). One can easily imagine a similar situation involving the use of spatial data. In fact, according to this report, spatial data was recently used to help clear a man suspected of committing a crime.

I read this report on the integration of private security cameras into the city of Chicago's video security network soon after watching the following show from the BBC on my local PBS channel. I recommend the former.

Clearly, balancing security and privacy concerns is not going to get any easier. For example, in the future will spatial technology companies feel the impact of this proposed UK surveillance plan? Or this in the United States?

I was on a flight recently with a gentlemen from the U.S. who had moved to Switzerland a few years back. He mentioned in passing how much the Swiss valued - and respected - an individual's privacy. Google is learning this firsthand as the Swiss government is reportedly taking it to court over Street View.

The GeoData Policy blog is an excellent resource, particularly as a source for lawsuits attempting to get access to spatial data sets controlled by government agencies. This suit is natural follow-on to a matter raised discussed here in May of 2008. This type of lawsuit - private companies attempting to obtain spatial data sets controlled by government agencies is likely to become more commonplace. This article provides a good summary of some of the issues involved.

This article gives some understanding to the complexity involved in analyzing potential liability issues associated with the use of spatial - and other types of data - in telematics.

Digital rights management and the licensing of "crowdsourced" data are two of the most challenging intellectual property issues associated with spatial data. Ed Parsons recent post on his blog touches on both of these issues. I strongly recommend reading the first two links - both address the issues from an operational standpoint - rather than a legal one.

This article is an example as to the power of satellite imagery on the international stage, as well as its many policy implications.

I recommend this excellent piece on governance issues associated with a National Spatial Data Infrastructure. Even those who are not familiar with spatial data infrastructures (SDI's) will benefit from this article, as I believe that laws and policies that develop around SDI's will provide the legal and policy framework for many important issues involving spatial data in general.

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