Monday, December 14, 2009

Spatial Law and Policy Update (December 14, 2009)

A former student forwarded me an email about this story of a New Zealand woman who deliberately falsified information about competitors on Google Maps. It appears from the article that there are measures a company can take to protect this sort of things from happening. However, it does highlight the number of another way in which spatial data can be flawed.

The UK recently issued INSPIRE regulations, a copy of which can be found here.

I wonder if protection of privacy will ever be a determinative factor in how a majority of people select their technology providers. My sense is that the answer is no - most people will not take the time necessary to figure out which company is more protective. However I do take exception to statements that some have made that we no longer should have an expectation of privacy. (And I think that - at least in the U.S. - the courts would as well.) I think that a more accurate, and less inflammatory, statement is that as a society we need to redefine what privacy is given the technology that exists today . . . and what is likely to exist in the future. I believe that this is particularly important with regards to privacy from a location standpoint. And I would recommend the question be framed around how much of our location privacy are we willing to give up in order to enjoy the many benefits of technology. For example, in this situation.

As in many other areas, it appears Google is taking the lead with respect to Geo Digital Rights Management.

Stories like this one are an example as to some of the legal challenges that location-based services face. However, the article is also indicative of the tension between those in the technology world and those in the legal world. The author suggests that it is unreasonable for the woman in the article to file a class action suit for $5 million since her actual damages were minimal. However, a major lawsuit is often viewed as the only means for an individual to get a response from a large company or even an industry. As spatial technology increasingly enters the consumer marketplace, it is important that companies develop internal processes that protect them from such lawsuits and not just dismiss them as frivilous.

I recommend this article from the New York Times for anyone interested in the legal and policy challenges associated with sharing of government data with private individuals (and companies).

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