Censorship, Security & Privacy
Copies of the latest issue of The Economist distributed in India have been censored: a map showing the disputed status of Kashmir has been covered over by a white sticker in some 30,000 copies, BBC News reports. I knew the Indian authorities were touchy about this subject, but I wasn’t aware that they would go as far as this — I thought they usually stamped them super bad map or something. Via Collins Maps.
Previously: India’s Mapping Panic Continues; The Survey of India Isn’t Helping; India Stamps Publications’ “Incorrect” Maps at the Border; Maps Must Be Cleared by the Survey of India; Google Earth, India and Security — Again.
TomTom has apologized after customer driving data collected from their GPS units was used by Dutch police to set speed traps where the average speed exceeded the posted speed limits (AP, El Reg). From their CEO’s official statement: “We are aware a lot of our customers do not like the idea and we will look at if we should allow this type of usage.”
Some developments on the iPhone/iPad tracking story since I last posted. For now, I’ll just refer you to the links.
First, Peter Batty’s must-read posts on the subject: So actually, Apple isn’t recording your (accurate) iPhone location; More on Apple recording your iPhone location history; The scoop: Apple’s iPhone is NOT storing your accurate location, and NOT storing history.
A follow-up from the original researchers: Additional iPhone tracking research (O’Reilly Radar).
Opinion: Mike Elgan at Computerworld; Brian X. Chen and Mike Isaac on Why You Should Care About the iPhone Location-Tracking Issue.
Today, Apple has posted a Q&A on the issue: they say it’s a cache of a subset of a larger hotspot and cell tower database, not location tracking.
This could be interesting. Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden report today at Where 2.0 that they’ve discovered that iPhones and 3G iPads have been recording their positions and storing them in one large — unencrypted — tracklog file, and are raising the alarm at the privacy implications. “Anybody with access to this file knows where you’ve been over the last year, since iOS 4 was released.” They’ve yet to hear back from Apple on this. The basic questions: what is the purpose of collecting this data, and why is it being stored in this (possibly insecure) manner?
Two items of note in this article from the China Daily: first, that China’s official online mapping service, Map World, is now out of beta (I wasn’t aware that it was in beta in the first place); and second, that… • Continue reading this entry.
Ogle Earth reports on the future of Google Maps in China: “In short, things are still not looking up for Google. Sina’s article references government sources who state that Google will definitely not get its license by the end of… • Continue reading this entry.
China’s State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping unleashed its own online mapping service Thursday. Map World is presumably kosher insofar as Chinese mapping restrictions are concerned. It has both maps and satellite/aerial imagery, though the map’s design is rather ugly… • Continue reading this entry.
Google Street View expanded again today, adding Brazil, Ireland and even a spot in Antarctica (Google Earth Blog, Google LatLong, Google Maps Mania, the Guardian). Meanwhile, Germany remains one country where Street View is not to be found, even though… • Continue reading this entry.
Stefan Geens has discovered that the Maps app on the Chinese version of the iPhone 4 shows the Chinese-censored version of Google Maps (e.g., with the “official” national boundaries approved by the Chinese government), whether or not the phone is… • Continue reading this entry.
The announcement of Facebook Places frankly reminds me of the last rollout of location services by an Internet giant: Google Latitude. The media freaks out about the privacy implications (see Lifehacker on how to disable the feature). Hardly anyone can… • Continue reading this entry.
Via many sources, including Tim O’Reilly, here’s a New York Times article about the privacy implications of geotagged photos, which implications generally boil down to whether the person taking said photos with a GPS-enabled camera (usually a smartphone like an… • Continue reading this entry.
Mark Monmonier has an article in New Scientist about “restrictive cartography” — the same topic as his latest book, No Dig, No Fly, No Go (see previous entry). What I call “restrictive cartography” is not in itself new. Property maps… • Continue reading this entry.
Recent reports from China are leading to speculation that Google Maps (and, by extension, Google Earth) may not be long for that country: All Points Blog, Ogle Earth. Previously: China to Crack Down on Online Maps. Update, July 9: At… • Continue reading this entry.
Paul Goble: “The Russian government has ended its cartographic monopoly, thus opening the way for dozens of private firms to enter the three-billion-U.S.-dollar annual market in Russian maps, but the longstanding Soviet tradition of secrecy about geography continues to cast… • Continue reading this entry.
A map of the Washington, D.C., water supply was deemed too sensitive to be shared online; having said that, the blogger who posted the map and the authorities who asked him to take it down were able to arrive at… • Continue reading this entry.
Here’s an interesting piece on privacy and geolocation services. Some excerpts: “When it comes to geo-privacy there are two extremes. Foursquare makes you explicitly check into each place where you want to share your location. … On the other end… • Continue reading this entry.
“The crackdown on Internet mapping services in China is real, and starts next month,” Ogle Earth reports, pointing to this article from the Xinhua state news agency, which Stefan helpfully translates from Newspeak. Bottom line: online maps seen inside China… • Continue reading this entry.
CNet reports that the European Union’s privacy watchdog sent a letter to Google outlining its concerns about Street View; in the letter, the watchdog “told Google that it should warn towns and cities before it snaps photos for its online… • Continue reading this entry.
David McCandless’s infographic showing what keywords and websites are blocked by China’s Great Firewall is an interesting design. Other versions here and here. Via Andrew Sullivan. Buy The Visual Miscellaneum at Amazon.com… • Continue reading this entry.
A little reality check for those worried about Google Latitude and the like: in the U.S., your mobile phone location data is already available to law enforcement. At ISS World, it was revealed that Sprint Nextel, with 50 million customers,… • Continue reading this entry.
This morning I notice, thanks to a tip by mapperz, that a number of additional Canadian cities have been added to Street View: Edmonton, Hamilton, London (Ontario), Saskatoon, St. John’s, Sudbury, Winnipeg, Victoria. The cities surrounding Toronto are also in… • Continue reading this entry.
The Swiss federal data protection commissioner is taking Google to court. Hanspeter Thür argues that Google’s blurring of faces and licence plates in its Street View imagery of Switzerland is insufficient and that Google has not complied with his recommendations,… • Continue reading this entry.
Valleywag thinks Google Latitude’s location history feature (previously) is creepy: “Google said it can now keep a detailed list of everywhere you go, play your trips back like movies and generate ‘alerts’ for unusual movements. Who wants this? The CIA?… • Continue reading this entry.
In the wake of Street View’s Canadian launch, an Ottawa home security expert argues that Google Street View will be a valuable tool for burglars. Not that burglars couldn’t drive up and down the street looking for easy marks prior… • Continue reading this entry.
Google’s Canadian managing director was summoned before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics yesterday, where he was grilled by Ottawa MP Pierre Poilievre (whom we’ve heard about before) about the privacy implications of… • Continue reading this entry.
Web comic xkcd’s take on Google Latitude’s privacy implications is … about what you’d expect. And as succinct an explanation as there will likely ever be of why location services will probably never take off…. • Continue reading this entry.
A little lower, please. Despite having taken photos in 12 Japanese cities already, Google has agreed to reshoot its Japanese Street View imagery from a slightly lower vantage point — 16 inches (400 mm) lower, to be exact — to… • Continue reading this entry.
Greece’s data protection agency has asked Google to stop collecting images for Street View on its streets and to provide details on how long it keeps images and how it informs those whose photographs are being taken of their rights… • Continue reading this entry.
Old maps of Japan from David Rumsey’s collection that are viewable as a layer in Google Earth have gotten Google into a bit of hot water in Japan, the AP’s Jay Alabaster reports (Huffington Post, Japan Times, Washington Post). The… • Continue reading this entry.
Google’s Street View cars are combing the streets of Ottawa; this rather unbalanced piece by Robert Sibley in today’s Ottawa Citizen comes across as a jeremiad about the state of privacy in modern life without actually stopping to question whether… • Continue reading this entry.
For location services like Google Latitude to succeed, Tom Arran argues in GPS Business News, their users need to be able to trust them; for that to happen, adequate safeguards need to be in place. He points to four emerging… • Continue reading this entry.
The Grauniad’s Michael Cross on the ruling by the Information Commissioner’s Office that Street View does not contravene the Data Protection Act (see previous entry): The ICO’s statement says there is no law against taking pictures of people in the… • Continue reading this entry.
The UK’s Information Commissioner has ruled that the risk of privacy invasion by Google Street View is not enough to warrant removing the service, calling such a move “disproportionate.” Stefan compares the British reaction to how he expects Swedes to… • Continue reading this entry.
Egypt has lifted the ban on importing GPS receivers; the country’s National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority is now allowing the importation of “cars equipped with GPS and navigation programs … GPS-enabled mobile phones, computers and other devices with civilian applications provided… • Continue reading this entry.
Google has faced a lot of criticism for its Street View service, but this past Wednesday was the first time, I think, that they faced an angry mob when one of its cars tried to photograph streets in Broughton, a… • Continue reading this entry.
Apart from some rather obscure industry in-jokes and an atrocious pun, the focus of this year’s geospatial-industry silliness seems to be Google Street View and its impact on privacy. Google Earth Blog announces that the next-generation Street View will include… • Continue reading this entry.
Google Street View isn’t even available for Canadian locations yet, but already Google is running afoul of Canada’s strict privacy legislation. The Ottawa Citizen’s Vito Pilieci has a couple of stories about Google Street View in Canada: this one on… • Continue reading this entry.
Stupid Republican California Assemblyman Joel Anderson has introduced a bill to censor online satellite imagery of public buildings. “His bill would restrict the images such Web sites could post online. Clear, detailed images of schools, hospitals, churches and all government… • Continue reading this entry.
Analysts, observers and pundits are trying to grapple with the implications of Google’s Latitude, which is apparently new enough to confound our expectations about location awareness and privacy. Privacy International says that security flaws could endanger user privacy: “PI has… • Continue reading this entry.
Last month, the Armed Services Inauguration Committee revealed to the public a 40×40-foot map used to plan the inauguration (via Vector One); another view is here (thumbnail above; via MapHist). New Google Earth imagery for Washington, D.C. finally de-pixellates… • Continue reading this entry.
In October, a group of British graduate students was fined by the Chinese authorities for illegal map-making activity, the Daily Telegraph reports. (See also AFP coverage: Google, Yahoo; AFP reports three students, the Telegraph only two.) The students were researching… • Continue reading this entry.
Last month’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai have apparently triggered India’s long-simmering moral panic about maps, satellite imagery and security in general, and Google Earth in particular. A petition has been filed before the Bombay High Court demanding a ban on… • Continue reading this entry.
Beginning in January, Californians will be able to use windshield-mounted GPS units; Minnesota is apparently the only remaining U.S. state that prohibits mounting navigation units on the inside of your windshield. Meanwhile, Egypt is one of only three countries —… • Continue reading this entry.
This is worth reading: Stefan debunks a number of recent reports alleging that Google caved to government requests to censor imagery; among the articles fact-checked is the well-circulated 51 Things You Aren’t Allowed to See on Google Maps, which we… • Continue reading this entry.
Ravi Vyas is after the Survey of India again; in a piece in the Telegraph of Calcutta, he documents a small change the Survey has made to speed up its approval process: Under existing copyright laws, any map of India,… • Continue reading this entry.
Blurred Out: 51 Things You Aren’t Allowed to See on Google Maps, a compilation of locations whose aerial imagery has been obscured in Google Earth and Maps. Categories range from government and military facilities to power generation sites; the list… • Continue reading this entry.
Imaginary Coordinates, a controversial exhibition that juxtaposed contemporary Israeli and Palestinian art with antique maps of the region, has been closed prematurely by the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, which had been putting on the show as part of Chicago’s… • Continue reading this entry.
Two more recent Google-related items: North Oaks, a rather xenophobic town in Minnesota — the streets are privately owned — has asked Google to remove it from Street View; Google has complied with the town’s request. Google’s gotten into trouble… • Continue reading this entry.
The Chinese government’s crackdown on doubleplus-ungood online maps that perpetrate crimethink progresses; now the investigation is naming names. Agence France-Presse: “China has launched an investigation into online mapping services by Internet giants including Google and Sohu in an effort to… • Continue reading this entry.
Xinhua: “The Chinese government is to crack down on illegal online map and geographical information websites, claiming they threaten state security, said an official of the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping (SBSM) on Tuesday.” Crimes perpetrated by evildoers range… • Continue reading this entry.
An article in the San Antonio Express-News about the privacy implications of Google Maps Street View — there was a flurry of media coverage about this last year, so they’re definitely playing catchup — and the means available to get… • Continue reading this entry.
Reuters (via the Washington Post): “Google Inc. has complied with a request by the Pentagon to remove some online images from its street-level map service because they pose a security threat to U.S. military bases, military and company officials said… • Continue reading this entry.
The Sunday Express on how the delivery of foreign publications in India is delayed if they have the temerity to publish a map of India that does not conform to the officially recognized boundaries: Every edition which carries a map… • Continue reading this entry.
Nikolas Schiller writes: The other day you featured my analysis concerning Google’s censorship of downtown Washington, D.C. I am contacting you with two updates concerning this research. 1. I discovered that the area in question is the exact same area… • Continue reading this entry.
Nikolas Schiller writes to point out an article in today’s Washington Post about Google’s updated imagery of Washington, D.C., and how Google massaged the fact that the most recent imagery available — 2005 imagery from the USGS — censored several… • Continue reading this entry.
A roundup of links about Google Street View and its privacy implications (mostly) that have been accumulating in my queue for the past few weeks. Slate: Google Spies on America. This Denver Post editorial also raises some concerns about “personal… • Continue reading this entry.
Even though the new street-level imagery from Google is getting all the attention lately, the issue of censoring satellite and aerial imagery has not gone away. Not by a long shot. Via Ogle Earth: Henri Willox noted yesterday that French… • Continue reading this entry.
Boing Boing’s Xeni Jardin asks, “Would we feel differently about street-level image mapping if it were done by a government agency? … Cameras aren’t new, maps aren’t new, the internet isn’t new, nor is Google or Microsoft. So why does… • Continue reading this entry.
The story of the privacy implications of Google’s Street View (see previous entry) has now been picked up by the New York Times. Meanwhile, scouring Street View for interesting or amusing images is turning into another pastime, as it was… • Continue reading this entry.
When you consider the privacy concerns — freakouts, really — that were raised when the online map sites made satellite and aerial imagery readily available, it’s not surprising that there would be similar concerns raised about the street-level imagery announced… • Continue reading this entry.
The municipal government of Shanghai is cracking down on “problem” maps. Key grafs from an announcement that is the epitome of Commie turgidity: [F]rom time to time, on maps that appeared in a variety of newspapers and periodicals, on TV… • Continue reading this entry.
This opinion piece in The Telegraph of Calcutta discusses the increasingly irrelevant requirement that the Survey of India — that bastion of government efficiency — clear all maps of India before they’re published in that country. Because someone might see… • Continue reading this entry.
A post on Valleywag, which I will quote here because I’m guessing most of you missed it, about Google Earth: “We’re hearing a rumor that the service, which overlays satellite imagery over a map grid, is actually forbidden in no… • Continue reading this entry.
The Russian government has lifted a (widely ignored) ban on the use of high-resolution images and high-accuracy GPS. Reuters: Until now, global positioning systems that helped locate ground objects more precisely than in a radius of 30 metres (98 ft),… • Continue reading this entry.
The API is only one half of a map mashup; the other half is the data being plotted on the map. In many cases, mashup makers do not own the data they’re mapping, but are using public (or at least… • Continue reading this entry.
Jeff Thurston got his hands on what sounds like an interesting book: State Security and Mapping in the German Democratic Republic is a collection of papers on East Germany’s deliberate distortion of its topographical maps. From the publisher’s catalogue… • Continue reading this entry.
The Chinese government is going after foreign mapmakers who “illegally survey, gather and publish geographical information on China,” the Xinhua News Agency is reporting (AOL News; Irish Examiner; Shanghai Daily; People’s Daily). It’s not clear to me whether this is… • Continue reading this entry.
The British government has decided to scrap the “sensitive sites register,” meaning that about 50 high-security installations will now be able to be mapped on Ordnance Survey maps, The Independent reports; the register was defeated by publicly available information from… • Continue reading this entry.
I’ve got to hunker down and produce a big post about the controversial Chinese map that purportedly proves that the Chinese discovered the Americas, but in the meantime, here are a few links about satellite images, online maps and advertising…. • Continue reading this entry.
The International Herald Tribune looks at the disconnect between the official maps handed out by the Russian authorities to foreign businesses, with gridlines diverging from true north and the latitudes and longitudes blotted out, with the relative ease that the… • Continue reading this entry.
India doesn’t seem to want to leave Google alone: after complaining about the satellite data in Google Earth, the Indian government is back to complaining about the labelling of Kashmir (via GeoCarta). See previous entries: Google Earth: Indian Reactions, Google… • Continue reading this entry.
More trouble in Russia over the possession of large-scale (i.e., 1:25,000) maps, this time involving oil company BP. Apparently foreigners — including foreign corporations doing business in Russia — aren’t allowed to have them. Via Cartography. See previous entry: Maps… • Continue reading this entry.
Once more into the breach. India is the latest country where concerns are being expressed about the high-resolution imagery in Google Earth, now that several Indian cities have had their photos updated. As usual, the concern is about sensitive installations… • Continue reading this entry.
Ogle Earth reports that New York state comptroller Alan Hevesi is the latest politician to freak out about Google Earth as a potential tool for terrorists. But Hevesi does it in a particularly odious manner, invoking his status as trustee… • Continue reading this entry.
When the satellite-photo version of Google Maps came out earlier this year, there was some apprehension about the impact of these high-resolution photos on individual privacy. For example, some nervousness about being able to see the car in your driveway…. • Continue reading this entry.
If you’re bemoaning the lack of open geographical data in your country, the following should give you pause. In Russia, public maps are limited to a scale of 1:100,000, with secret installations “cleansed”; higher-resolution maps are considered state secrets, their… • Continue reading this entry.