Newspapers and legislative hearing rooms are full of concerns over individual privacy. While some of those concerns are well founded, there is a danger all data will be sequestered, that it will be locked behind firewalls. If that happens, all transparency will be lost. People will not be able to understand what is happening in their community. They will not be able to make intelligent decisions or know how their government is functioning.
Thomas Jefferson said, “Information is the currency of democracy.” NSGIC believes this and is especially concerned with attacks on locational information because Geographic is our middle name. We have recently published a document, This Isn’t Private Information. It presents five examples of locational data that is clearly not private.
- Street addresses, even with x-y coordinates, if no resident names are associated
- Property ownership and assessment records are purposely public records
- Aerial photography resolution is typically too course to identify individuals
- Published Census data is only summary information
- Google’s Street View™ and similar images
(September 17, 2013 Update) MAPPS is also concerned about federal overreaction on privacy issues. They have developed a resolution and other convincing material that document the value of imagery and geospatial information for the economy, public safety, open government, etc. See Federal Issue: Privacy.