Craiglist's recent decision to pull its adult services section is being denounced in many circles as a blow to freedom of speech. However, businesses working in the gelocation ecosytem would be better served by taking away another lesson: the importance on winning in the court of public opinion as well as in the court of law.
Craiglist's decision does not appear to have been prompted by any direct legal action. Rather, it came after increased media reports on the use of Craigslist for prostitution and trafficking of women and girls. Craigslist took a series of steps over the past few years attempting to appease its critics. However, the pressure intensified, culminating most recently in an open letter from 18 attorneys general asking Craigslist to remove the adults services section.
Geospatial and location companies face similar media pressure with regards to privacy. Howeer, it will probably still come as a surprise to many people that the media has already played a similar role with regards to the use of geospatial technology, albeit on a much smaller scale. After numerous media reports on alleged privacy concerns raised by its use of Google Earth to identify unpermitted pools, the building department of Riverhead Town, New York recently announced it was going to stop using the service, although it had the legal right to do so. In addition according to the report, a city councilman has "prepared a resolution adopting a policy restricting the use of virtual globe map and geographic information programs."