Friday, August 07, 2009

GIS: Freedom or Invasion of Privacy?

GIS stands for Global Information Systems. These web gis systems can be anything from a UPS tracking software that allows you to see where your order is to a chip in your cell phone that allows anyone with the know how to track your current location. Many of these systems you have to decide to use, such as tracking software. Others are engaged whether you want them to be or not. In those cases, like the cell phones, are they an invasion of your privacy?

There are good points and bad points to these GIS programs. If you are in a car wreck and can't remember where you are, you may very well want someone to locate you via your cell phone. But are you comfortable knowing that "big brother" can find you as long as your cell phone is on? Google maps has spark a number of concerns because of the "candid" pictures of people that have shown up on their program. One friend of mine's father-in-law got caught on the street view version of google maps while checking his mail. If you enter his address into Google maps, you will find him standing next to his mail box.

On the other hand, Google argues their photos were done in public in broad daylight. Anything captured on their program would have been visible to someone driving down the street. Does it then constitute an invasion of privacy? I have a 5 year old daughter and another kid on the way. I would love to be able to pull up a website when she is 16 and know where she is. But do I want other people to be able to do the same?

Most issues I talk about on here I try to argue one point or another. This is one issue that I am really not sure about, and would like to hear other opinions on. What do you think? Are programs such as Google Maps an invasion of privacy? Or are GIS systems simply a new reality that we have to adapt too?

This is a sponsored post.


Patrick said...


Being that Google street view is updated only annually, I don't see it as an invasion of privacy. If it was continuously updated, then we'd have a problem. Also, is someone wanted to find the address of your family, there's more than just Google street to help find them. Though some people are caught on camera, I'm sure that you could contact Google and have them take that portion of Google street down and remap that area. No company can use your likeness without your consent, which is different than allowing them to use photos of public domain.

Andy D said...

With Google Street specifically, I would agree. If you are doing something in the yard that a car can drive by and photo, I don't think it is an invasion of privacy to have it photoed. But what about the cell phone tracking programs? To my knowledge there is no way to turn that information off. Or what about the government mandating computer medical records? We know the government has a terrible track record of keeping that type of information secure. We should expect it to be hacked or leaked. Should the government force people to have their medical records computerized and sent to Washington?

Patrick said...


Any half decent hacker will tell you that if they wanted to, they could get into most systems today. These are private systems. The main reason is that most private systems aren't updated daily. The only way to prevent leakage of sensitive information is to have continuously updated security systems, like the FBI and financial institutions. These orgainizations are still attacked daily, and that's why banks have insurance. (Banks rates for business would probably go down if they didn't have to worry about this.)

It costs money to maintain and defend any large source of information. That's private or public. As far as cell phone tracking, that's just a part of the technology. Law enforcement can use your cell phone records to track you at any point in time. the cell phone companies often work with law enforcement to help close some cases. Many criminals would have an alibi were it not for cell phone tracking. Besides that, all cell phone companies do a pretty good job of securing your information. They do this b/c they don't want to get sued. If they weren't as secure with your cell phone location information, you come into some money.

Actually, if the goverment contracted a private company to run their national records database, I would have no problem with it. Number one, you would have a better chance for salary inticement of a world-renown computer defense programmer to set up your system.

Andy D said...

I don't know. I am not a big fan of the government having my medical records (secure or not). I just don't think it is the government's business.