Friday, October 28, 2011

Spatial Data Infrastructures: More Than Directives (Redux)

Last year, Steven Ramage (OGC) and I wrote an article for Directions Magazine on the practical legal challenges associated with implementing directives and policies creating national spatial data infrastructures (SDI's). Prof Arup Dasgupta, from Geospatial Media, summarized the issues much more succintly in a recently published editorial titled 'Acts and Actions' in Geospatial World Weekly (October 4, 2011):

"Many countries have enacted laws to enable the use of geospatial technology in governance. However, these Acts and Orders have to be followed up by action to actually realise the application of this technology in the intended areas. The NSDI was established by an executive order in the USA in 1994 and further amended in 2003. Similarly, the Indian NSDI was mandated in June 2006 by the Union Cabinet through an executive order. A European Union directive in 2007 established the INSPIRE project to realise an SDI for Europe. While many activities have been initiated and some have come to fruition, these laws have not always resulted in action in terms of realisation of an SDI which substantially meets all the envisaged geospatial data requirements of government, industry and its citizens. In many cases, these Acts have not taken into account the possible clash with extant laws. Thus, policies regarding access to modern geospatial data, individual privacy, surveillance and tracking, to name a few, often seem to be at loggerheads with these Acts. These clashes have resulted in the slow growth and tardy action in the realisation of SDIs. The action needed is to bring existing policies and laws in line with the new Acts so that we can then see some real action. "

Well said!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Spatial Law and Policy Update

Raising Awareness of Where Geospatial Technology Is Taking the Law


Shopping Centers to Monitor Customer's mobile phones (Courier Mail)

Data Quality

With Big Data Comes Big Responsibilities (MIT Technology Review)

Intellectual Property

The Face That Launched 7,000 Clicks (Courthouse News Service)

Facebook: The law reasonably states you can't have all your data  (ZDnet)

National Security/Law Enforcement

Zoning the Oceans? (Law of the Land)

How governments are using technology to engage citizens 



GPS Data on Beijing Cabs Reveals the Cause of Traffic Jams (Technology Review)

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Court: Some data on government cell phone tracking should be public  (CNN)

Judge shreds, dismisses iPhone privacy class-action  (ARS Technica)

GM’s OnStar Unit Alters Privacy Policy   (Bloomberg)

Apple joins lobby against warrantless data inspection  (Information Age)

CNIL Cites French Yellow Pages Operator for Illegal Use of Social Media Data  (Hogan Lovell's Chronicle of Data Protection)

Data Anonymization and Re-identification: Some Basics Of Data Privacy  (The Daily Attack)

Which Telecoms Store Your Data the Longest? Secret Memo Tells All  (Threat Level)

ISACA stresses the need to protect mobile data from the increasing security threats posed by location-based apps   (IT Pro)

Employer did not violate employee’s privacy by accessing personal laptop (Internet Cases)

HTC security vulnerability said to leak phone numbers, GPS data, and more, HTC responds  (Engadget)

Senate Committee Approves Data Breach Bills Despite Heavy Opposition  (

Data Quality and Liability

Real estate boundaries: real and imagined  (inman News)

Issues of Liability Unclear for Sensor and Sensor Platform Providers  (Spatial Sustain)


LightSquared: GPS industry should pay for fixing commercial devices (The Hill)

Lightsquared Update - LS Exec Threatens Legal Action  (Directions Magazine)

Law Enforcement/National Security

Details Emerging On Stingray Technology, Allowing Feds To Locate People By Pretending To Be Cell Towers  (techdirt)

Biannual Swedish media panic sets in as Google Earth continues to show Sweden’s “secrets”   (Ogle Earth)

GPS Inventor Urges Supreme Court to Reject Warrantless Tracking  (Threat Level)


IPhone app pilots drone aircraft from 3,000 miles away  (Los Angeles Times)

Recent Arrest Puts Model Airplanes on Radar  (The Wall Street Journal)

Smart Grid

Spatial Law and the Smart Grid  (Spatial Sustain)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Five Legal/Policy Issues to Follow Over The Next Twelve Months

The next year is shaping up to be an important period for the geospatial industry.  Over that time there is likely to be movement on a number of key legal and policy issues that could have a significant impact on the industry's growth over the next decade.  These issues include:

LightSquared/GPS dispute - The issue has received a good deal of attention over the past six months, so I won't go into more detail here. However, there are two points worth considering. First, any negative impact LightSquared's technology has on GPS (and similar systems) will be felt throughout the geospatial community; interference with GPS development and use for commercial purposes will be a step back for the entire geospatial community. Moreover, whatever decision the FCC reaches likely will be challenged through legal means, including lawsuits. Such uncertainty will be seen as a challenge for businesses wishing to exploit this technology for commercial purposes.

GPS tracking case to be heard by U.S. Supreme Court - The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in the case U.S. v. Jones in November.  One of the specific issues involved in the case is to what extent is the use by law enforcement of a GPS tracking device to track a suspect on public streets without first obtaining a warrant a violation of the suspect's Fourth Amendment rights. (In Jones, the tracking occurred for over four weeks.)  If the court rules on that issue - it conceivably can rule on a much narrow issue without addressing tracking - the impact could be much broader than the facts of this case or even the use of GPS tracking devices by law enforcement. It may create a broader statement as to what a person's reasonable expectation of privacy is from a location standpoint with regards to a variety of geospatial technologies.

Budget considerations Governments around the world are struggling with budget concerns. These concerns are likely to delay and/or undo current plans to deploy satellite systems in the US and around the globe. Given that the economic uncertainty is likely to last for a while, it may take years before such decisions are overcome. As a result, the geospatial community may be feeling the effects of the decisions for a decade or longer. Again, the impact will likely go well beyond the satellite companies and reach the broad range of businesses, government agencies and consumers who have come to rely on increasingly higher quality geospatial data.

Impact of privacy legislation and regulation on geolocation - I have written extensively about how geolocation information is being caught up in global efforts to protect consumer privacy. Thus far most of the media and regulatory attention seems to have been focused on companies such as Google and Apple.  However, legislation and regulations are being developed - and could be implemented over the next year - that would have a much broader impact and could make it much more difficult and expensive for a variety of companies to collect, use and or transfer geospatial data.

Efforts to use the UN to regulate information available on the internet - There is a growing effort by countries to use the United Nation as a means to restrict the availability of information over the internet. This includes (i) China and Russia proposing a Code of Conduct for Internet Security that would curb "dissemination of information which incites terrorism, secessionism, extremism or undermines other countries' political, economic and social stability, as well as their spiritual and cultural environment" (ii) India, Brazil and South Africa calling upon a new global body within the UN to 'control the internet' and (iii) the ITU adopting a proposal to hold a meeting (subsequently postponed) on cybersecurity and 'the illicit use' of satellite imagery and information and communications technology (ICT). Since geospatial data increasingly is being made available over the internet and countries have expressed concerns about the potential for publicly available geospatial data to threaten a nation's security, the success of these efforts could impact a variety of geospatial technologies.

One can not predict the likely outcome of any of these matters. However, it is increasingly clear that collectively they will shape the future development of the geospatial industry.