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Court Rules GIS Data Can't Be Kept Secret

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the can't-hide-from-the-survey dept.

The Courts 269

Silverbear writes "In an update from a Slashdot story posted in January, The Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that there is not a significant security risk to the town of Greenwich in making its GIS Data available to the public, and therefore must do so. Greenwich had claimed that the data could compromise personal and national security, and was sued under CT Freedom of Information laws. The legal ruling is available."

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ok now (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874702)

For the lazy people who are google-impaired, WTF is GIS?

Re:ok now (4, Informative)

MankyD (567984) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874737)

Geographic Information Systems (I believe)

It's basically maps - elevation, road, land cover, buildings, that sort of stuff.

More than that. (5, Interesting)

fireboy1919 (257783) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874925)

As a software developer at a GIS company, I can tell you that it's all spatial information. Modern GIS data often includes names & addresss, parcel information, communities, etc.

Basically, think of it as a new kind of database. One that is capable of generating maps.

And just like any other database, it could have who knows what in it. Some information is very private, and some isn't.

Re:ok now (1)

Com2Kid (142006) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874739)

Satellite map data.


Geographic Information System. A computer software system with which spatial information (eg. maps) can be captured, stored, analyzed, displayed and retrieved.


www.orafaq.com/glossary/faqglosg.htm [orafaq.com]

Re:ok now (1)

DeathFlame (839265) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874747)

Doesn't have to be satellite data map. A lot of the data will come from legal land survey information.

Re:ok now (1)

sphealey (2855) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874914)

It can also include other data such as sewer line routes, utility pole locations, etc.

sPh

Re:ok now (1)

DeathFlame (839265) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874948)

Which will all come from legal land surveys, or engineering drawings prepared using legal land survey data. I would know because I make those engineering drawings. :)

Re:ok now (1)

sphealey (2855) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875049)

Well, I know for a fact that our municipal electric utility is adding utility pole data to our town's GIS, and that they are not using legal survey data to do it, just ordinary industrial-resolution GPS, as I have watched them do it and asked the GIS manager about it.

Geographers claim domain over everything on the surface of the earth, so I think you will find just about everything in someone's GIS, legally surveyed or not.

sPh

Re:ok now (2, Insightful)

DeathFlame (839265) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875119)

Because Utility pole data doesn't need to be to the nearest millimeter. So not all the data comes from legal land surveys, but it does come from a survey of some sort.

Even mm precise instruments don't get the correct postion when surverying things like sewer manholes because the center of the manhole cover is tough to find, and the center of manhold cover is not the center of the manhole in many cases.

Google Image Search (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12874743)

No Text =P

Re:ok now (1)

eyegor (148503) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874744)

From the article: "Geographic Information System" == "GIS"

Re:ok now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12874748)

Geographic Information System

Re:ok now (1)

Leroy_Brown242 (683141) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874752)

Geographic Information Systems

Re:ok now (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12874757)

Google Image Search :p

Re:ok now (3, Informative)

RandomLetters (892800) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874773)

From google "define gis"

is the abbreviation for geographic information system. GIS are special-purpose digital databases in which a common spatial coordinate system is the primary means of reference. GIS contain subsystems for: 1) data input; 2) data storage, retrieval, and representation; 3) data management, transformation, and analysis; and 4) data reporting and product generation. It is useful to view GIS as a process rather than a thing. A GIS supports data collection, analysis, and decision making and is far more than a software or hardware product. Other terms for GIS, and special-purpose GIS, include: Land-Base Information System, Land Record System

Re:ok now (1)

RealAlaskan (576404) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874780)

GIS==Geographical Information Systems, oh Google-impaired one.

See Tigerline [census.gov] and GRASS [grass.itc.it] for examples of data and software, respectively.

Re:ok now (4, Informative)

xmas2003 (739875) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874791)

GIS = Geographic Information Systems ... here's a decent writeup from Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] ... basically allows you to analyze data in terms of location and draw inferences from it. So for instance, based on rainfall patterns, you can predict where grass will grow ;-) [watching-grass-grow.com]

Re:ok now (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12874919)

What the fuck is WTF?

Re:ok now (1)

mikael (484) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875030)

Geographic Information System

Every piece of information any person or company who wants to dig a hole somewhere needs to know without electrocuting themselves, starting a flood, causing a gas explosion or disrupting communication between air traffic controllers and the airports (at least in theory).

Thus these databases not only store ground height information, contour lines, but the locations and addresses of buildings, offices, factories, power lines, substations, pylons, underground electricity cables, water supplies, gas pipes, sewerage system, reservoirs, waste dumps, fibre optic cables, underground streams, communication towers etc...

But nothing a person couldn't deduce by walking along a road and looking around or reading the labels on the manhole covers.

GIS info is sensitive? Give me a break! (5, Informative)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874705)

So, tax information (boundaries and assessments), streets and address ranges, future land-use plans, city/county boundaries, building permits, census data, and waterways information. Yes, obviously all these is sensitive data that needs to be protected from possible terrorists.

Believe me people, if the terrorists wanted to poison the water supply they wouldn't need the GIS data to figure out how to do it. They also probably really don't care about the Census data to figure out population centers (especially in Greenwich). I highly doubt they care about tax information like assessment values and boundaries as Greenwich is all high-cost living for the most part.

GIS data should be freely examinable. We paid for it as taxpayers and even helped to contribute the data (Census) so why shouldn't we be able to access it? In fact, Portland's $900 for the data is too steep. It should be free for non-commercial use IMHO.

Next they'll make it all available but in a ROT-13 CSV file so they can protect it under the DMCA! Blah.

At least the courts knew better this time and ruled in favor of open information that the public paid for.

Re:GIS info is sensitive? Give me a break! (0)

FireballX301 (766274) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874785)

Excellent point. The problem is, you can't use the fact that 'if taxpayers pay for it and contribute to it, then they should have access to it', as justification.

Look at the NSA, CIA, random military bases. You're liable to be shot on sight if you sneak into them, and the information available there is simply an order of magnitude more sensitive.

So who ultimately decides the cutoff as to what we as taxpayers can see and what we can't? Judges like these. In this situation they made the proper choice, but I can't trust our judicial system in light of the 'other' rulings they've made.

Re:GIS info is sensitive? Give me a break! (5, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874848)

Look at the NSA, CIA, random military bases. You're liable to be shot on sight if you sneak into them, and the information available there is simply an order of magnitude more sensitive.

GIS data (as I have proven) is not sensitive information. I have a feeling that at least some of what the CIA and NSA do is probably top secret and a cause for concern of our Nation's security.

Where taxes go up and down is not sensitive. How much my neighbors pay in taxes on their houses is quite important and is even more important when you are looking for a place to live (the true reason they don't want to pony up the information).

Let's not compare oranges and apples here. GIS != NSA/CIA regardless of how it is funded.

Re:GIS info is sensitive? Give me a break! (2, Interesting)

timjdot (638909) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874907)

The counties accrue negligible additional costs to share GIS data. In fact, probably accrue cost savings. For example, Richland County covering Columbia, South Carolina and the metropolitan areas freely shares its GIS data and allows the public to view housingh information. Housing prices and other information may be delisted but, I believe, are still available from physically visiting the county office. Also, Los Angeles County provides the information freely as well. It will sell the information in a more compact form but the information can be accessible one property at a time from the Internet. I think they try to get you to buy it but suspect the recent court ruling underscores they are required to make this information publicly available. I've run into city and other public officials before who think the government is a business. They'll try to block your business in order to compete. Best thing to do is let them dive in fully and see how hard business truly is and why the government has no business in business.

Re:GIS info is sensitive? Give me a break! (2, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875180)

I have a feeling that at least some of what the CIA and NSA do is probably top secret and a cause for concern of our Nation's security.

Actually, the funny thing is that much of what they do is done in the open. Over the years, I have worked on several projects the involved various groups (DARPA, CIA, NSA, and DOD). In several cases, the work was attributed in one context, but was actually used in another. The first time that this was done was at a major university. The 2'nd at a quasi regular job.

Lowers the costs and with all the noise, it makes it hard to tell that it was anything interesting.

As to concern about what they do, I would worry less about what they do, and worry more about allowing the tech. to flow to DOJ( and by extension the FBI). Now, we are moving from what was professional groups (and down the road more autonomy will be restored) to politically-controlled groups. The tools that were available to NSA and CIA just a couple of years ago, will allows for total abuse under Patriot Act (I, II, and future).

Re:GIS info is sensitive? Give me a break! (2, Insightful)

RealAlaskan (576404) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874906)

The problem is, you can't use the fact that 'if taxpayers pay for it and contribute to it, then they should have access to it', as justification.

Look at the NSA, CIA, random military bases. You're liable to be shot on sight if you sneak into them,...

So who ultimately decides the cutoff as to what we as taxpayers can see and what we can't?

How about using: ``If they can't justify shooting you on sight if you sneak in, they can't justify keeping the information you paid for secret.'' as our criterion?

In this situation they made the proper choice, but I can't trust our judicial system in light of the 'other' rulings they've made.

Me, too.

This sort of wisdom does seem out of character for the courts in general. Not all judges are stupid, crooked, vicious scum, but that's the way to bet. Maybe this fellow is a principled exception to the general rule. Maybe he was just too stoned, and gave the wrong instructions to the clerk who wrote the ruling.

Re:GIS info is sensitive? Give me a break! (5, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874843)

At least the courts knew better this time and ruled in favor of open information that the public paid for.

What is it with the "this time" stuff? After a case goes through the full process of being heard, being appealed, and being heard at higher courts, it's reasonably certain that the outcome is correct according to the law. If the courts produce a decision you don't like, then you probably need to look to your lawmakers, not your justices.

Of course, most of the "decisions" that people complain about around here never go to court. i.e. The case procedes as:

1. Person get cease and desist or notices a rights violation.

2. Lots of complaining about how bad the courts are, and how they're all in Bush's/Clinton's/Jimmy Carter's pocket.

3. Case never goes to court, despite the law actually stating the "correct answer".

4. More complaining about how bad the courts are.

Yeash people. Believe it or not, the US court system does tend to work correctly.

Ok, I'm done with my rant now. You can mod me offtopic. (Because I am.)

Re:GIS info is sensitive? Give me a break! (3, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874883)

Yeash people. Believe it or not, the US court system does tend to work correctly.

It tends to work correctly on shit that really doesn't matter (i.e. GIS data). It doesn't seem to work very well for civil rights violations such as the Patriot Act.

Yes, the people should stand up and revolt against the Patriot Act and those lawmakers, regime leaders, and officers of the court that aren't doing anything to stop it. Should we get bent out of shape over GIS data? No.

This is a step in the right direction showing that the information does need to be public even if someone uses the word "sensitive" or "terrorism".

Re:GIS info is sensitive? Give me a break! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12875151)

Why do you hate America?

Re:GIS info is sensitive? Give me a break! (1)

pianoman113 (204449) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874895)

2. Lots of complaining about how bad the courts are, and how they're all in Bush's/Clinton's/Jimmy Carter's pocket.

I KNEW Carter was still up to something!

Re:GIS info is sensitive? Give me a break! (2, Interesting)

Soybean47 (885009) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874879)

I know why people try to horde GIS data here, and I suspect it may be the same in Greenwich. GIS data is extremely expensive to create and work with, because the software involved tends to have very expensive per-user annual fees associated with it.

Now, you're thinking, "but my tax dollars paid that bill!"

Probably, yes. However, the tax dollars are apportioned in different amounts to different groups within government. Some group has to fight hard to justify a budget allocation big enough to cover their GIS software licenses... and they don't want other government groups to reap the benefits without helping to pay for it.

Around here, government departments tend to charge one another huge fees for their GIS output, thus sharing the cost of the software licenses. If they were required to give it to citizens for free (or, for $900), then obviously they wouldn't be able to charge another government department more than that.

So... they might actually have been worried about security. It seems more plausible to me that some guy was just worried that the folks over in the other department would get his data, and he'd be footing the bill with his budget allocation. Passing it off as a security concern just seems like a better way to get higher-ups on board.

Re:GIS info is sensitive? Give me a break! (1)

Apreche (239272) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874920)

One thing you've got wrong. Terrorists couldn't poison the water supply even with the GIS data. I think I heard it was estimated that in order to poison the water supply at the source you would need a barge full of poison or more. There's just so much water at any given resevoir that in order to get the concentration of poison high enough to hurt someone you need too much poison to go unnoticed. 100 tankers pumping strange chemicals into the water is not something you can sneakily do when nobody is looking.

Re:GIS info is sensitive? Give me a break! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12874970)

Is it worth mentioning that terrorists seem to be attacking thing they can see and obivos targets. If someone wants to attack a city building they dont need a gps to do it, they need a phone book and a google maps.

This again is much along the lines of "well if our govt operatative can use GIS to attack somethign then therefore eveyone else must..

I recall someone on irc saying that the biggest risk to airline security are the passengers. Get rid of then and the pilots woudl be nice and safe.

GIS info really *IS* sensitive. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12875019)

Sysadmin for an undisclosed city govt in Texas here....

GIS indeed contains sensitive data. Our layers contain information about where the high-pressure gasoline transport pipelines run thru our city, also where the high-pressure natural gas pipelines run. The natural gas in these lines is not the diluted stuff, with the mercaptain odorant added, like you get from the pipes at your house. It is the pure concentrated stuff straight from the wells and distribution pumps. From our GIS data, a terrorist (gack! I said the "T"-word. Ugh!) could find the most vulnerable places where to sabotage these pipelines and wreak havoc. He could also find out where the achilles heels of the public safety communications systems (buried fiberoptics and copper lines, microwave sites, etc) are located and sabotage those at the same time as his buddies blow up the gasoline pipelines. Oh, and they'd also be able to more easily find out where to most effectively cripple the water lines too, and on a smelly note, could also find out where to cause the most damage to our sewage pumping stations, most of which are underground too.

Re:GIS info really *IS* sensitive. (2, Insightful)

BVis (267028) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875182)

You have a valid point, but how much of that information is freely available "piecemeal" from other town sources, as TFD (decision) alludes to? Does releasing this information really create hazards or vulnerabilities that don't already exist?

Re:GIS info is sensitive? Give me a break! (1)

Kevin DeGraaf (220791) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875198)

[GIS data] should be free for non-commercial use

Why specify non-commercial? What would be wrong with letting businesses use the data as they see fit?

I hate megacorps as much as the next guy, but I'm also not a fan of arbitrary restrictions on the use of information.

What fags (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12874713)

Seriously

All the information is available elsewhere (1)

Rotten (8785) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874736)

So what's the point in hiding "public" information.

Its like banning "google maps".

Re:All the information is available elsewhere (1)

hobbesx (259250) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874764)

Good point- what could they possibly gain by withholding it? Not to say that they should charge for it, but if it was available with a fee, at least they could offset some of the costs in collecting and maintaining it, right?

Re:All the information is available elsewhere (4, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874766)

So what's the point in hiding "public" information. Its like banning "google maps".

It's worse. Google is a for-profit company that creates software solutions for the public using public data. If they are charged for the use of the GIS data, fine.

The public, who paid for and even submitted the information stored in the GIS databases, should be able to freely examine and use the information as they see fit. There should be no restrictions on this, especially monetary or it will be another double-fuck fleecing of the public.

Yay, we paid for the taxes to collect this data and wasted our free time giving you Census information and now we have to pay to see it used in a useful manner?

If someone banned Google Maps I wouldn't really care. If the governments continue to close up our free access to information I will continue to get annoyed.

Re:All the information is available elsewhere (2, Insightful)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875095)

Its not the government, its your government -- and don't forget to call them up and remind them.

In this era of paranoia (5, Interesting)

mister_llah (891540) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874745)

I am actually quite surprised this ruling occurred... I was listening to a news story on NPR a couple of days ago about some people taking pictures near bridges/with bridges in the background, or with other things around (like oil refineries, or in one instance, the FBI building was in the background) ... but these people had their film confiscated... ... and that's just for taking pictures casually... but who knows, maybe Conneticuit courts figure "Eh, we're not New York" ...

===

Not that I think we should be paranoid, I think this hysteria over terrorism is exactly what both sides want (the government gets to take more control and the terrorists get to disrupt our way of life and our happiness) ... I think its ridiculous... but... I am just surprised...

NPR link (3, Informative)

FerretFrottage (714136) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874976)

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?story Id=4705698 [npr.org]

and here is a link to a blog that refers to the photographer's rights: http://blog.photoblogs.org/2004/06/photographers_r .html [photoblogs.org]

Re:NPR link (1)

mister_llah (891540) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875046)

Hey, cool :) -- thanks, I didn't get to finish that story because I was getting into class...

^_^

Re:NPR link (1)

FerretFrottage (714136) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875156)

Yeah, I know, I have of photo of you going into class :)

Re:In this era of paranoia (1)

Sarin (112173) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875104)

Yeah just like my little brother who was studying for one year in the usa. Taking photos is just his hobby.

He only took some black and white shots of a dead tree standing near a parking lot near a carnival in L.A. just after closing time.
Within minutes he was surrounded by security guards and little time later he was taken away by the fbi.
It seems there was a little powerhouse behind the tree which was on the list of suspected terrorist targets. They questioned him for 4 hours until he could go.

My younger brother is white and Dutch, I can only imagine the trouble he'd been into if he were an exchange student from Egypt or some other Arab state.

Re:In this era of paranoia (1)

mister_llah (891540) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875173)

Our country has gone mad, sorry about that... most of us aren't too keen on the whole thing, either :/

Re:In this era of paranoia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12875169)

I had this happen to me last summer. I was taking some photos of trains working in a railyard in eastern Illinois. I was on a public road, parked on a bridge that had been constructed for the explicit use of "railfans" (people that like watching trains).I had taken some wonderful shots and was having a fun afternoon (engineers waving to me and the like), when I was approached by a local police officer and asked to stop taking pictures and to leave the bridge.

When I asked him why, he made some reference to events of 9-11. I asked him nicely what would happen if I refused to leave, I was told that I would be arrested.

I think things have truly gotten out of hand in this country....

Re:In this era of paranoia (1)

glitchvern (468940) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875193)

Not that I think we should be paranoid, I think this hysteria over terrorism is exactly what both sides want (the government gets to take more control and the terrorists get to disrupt our way of life and our happiness)

I dunno, sounds a bit paranoid to me.

GIS is..... (2)

arh9623 (49521) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874751)

The maps, created from Geographic Information System data and showing city landmarks, including the location of "security-sensitive'' sites such as schools, public utilities, and bridges, must be open because officials in Greenwich, Conn., did not show that their release will violate a trade secret or threaten public safety, the high court ruled.

This doesn't surprise me at all (4, Insightful)

suitepotato (863945) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874762)

I live in CT and have worked in Greenwich. They live in another dimension of reality there, entirely contained in their heads. They don't act as though they believe themselves to be part of CT, they have police preventing access to taxpayer funded town owned roads because they don't want commoners going near the wealthy and famous, and have the state's largest concentration of arrogant self-important snobs outside of the Avon-Simsbury region.

If the other 168 municipalities have to be wide open to publicly availible taxpayer funded satellite scans then so should they. I have a feeling however that they will keep on fighting this decision until Hell freezes over.

Re:This doesn't surprise me at all (1)

DCheesi (150068) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874955)

I don't know about other places, but around here the GIS information includes homeowners' names; maybe the rich & famous in Greenwich don't want the unwashed masses to find out exactly where they live?

This is excellent. (2, Interesting)

NaruVonWilkins (844204) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874776)

One of the things Keyhole wanted to do before they were purchased was to integrate real estate data - taxes, boundaries on land parcels, etc - into their database. If Google wants to continue with this, this court ruling could make it easier for them to do so.

Hey... (2, Funny)

ilyanep (823855) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874781)

You don't need a picture of the floorplan of a large office building to ram a plane in to it.

Re:Hey... (2)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874856)

Welllll . . . considering GIS doesn't contain floorplans I dont think you have to worry.

Re:Hey... (1)

whatAnotherAolUser (463787) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874969)

actually it is entirely possible to have floor plans in your gis. you can also have people, planes, cars, trees, bushes, even temporal aspects such as motion in your gis projects. a gis is simply a model of the world. depending on time, user ability and software/hardware determines the level of detail the gis has.

Re:Hey... (1)

bosewicht (805330) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874978)

Almost every GIS shop I have ever worked in has floor plans tied in to their data or were working on it.

Cue the Classists, Please... (4, Informative)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874792)

For those joining us from overseas and parts West, Greenwich, Connecticut is among the more -- what's the word? -- 'tony' of digs. Sort of like a Beverly Hills for the New York glitter- and media-rati who don't like the feel of sand between their toes out in the Hamptons.

Re:Cue the Classists, Please... (2, Interesting)

suitepotato (863945) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874941)

For those joining us from overseas and parts West, Greenwich, Connecticut is among the more -- what's the word? -- 'tony' of digs. Sort of like a Beverly Hills for the New York glitter- and media-rati who don't like the feel of sand between their toes out in the Hamptons.

Generically, Greenwich is one of about 169 municipalities in the state of CT.

Specifically, it has become overrun with the sort of rich people that give rich people a bad name. The sort of charicatures that leftists and arachists always speak of. Snotty, snobbish, self-important, "do-you-know-who-I-am?!" types. The town is firmly in the political hands of these people and the police could care less if you're a renter in an apartment on the main drag (they exist, more of them closer to the NY border), but if you live in places like Belle Haven, they are practically your private soldiers. I used to be harassed by their police as "not looking like" I "belong here" every single night I had third shift maintenance to do on a telecom co-location. Corporate van, uniform, badge, cell phone, manager's contact info, and they still insinuated I looked like I shouldn't be there.

I would take claims of their PD doing racial/ethnic/economic profiling as a given.

I used to work in broadband/telecom down there and when they make impossible demands on "the help" they aren't mere stupid common users. They already pointedly KNOW what they are asking for is improper, they simply expect the laws of physics and reality to be bent for their benefit on their command.

I lost count of the times I was asked to enter through "the servant's entrance" when working there.

You can say this is too harsh, but unless you've experienced the insulting and condescending stares and words from these people yourself, you have no idea. The worst part is, they absolutely do not care about dispelling this image and work very hard to reinforce it.

And are they really this paranoid? Yes. I've been to homes where I was escorted by paid security guards from the front gates through the building and was pointedly told not to look in certain directions. They actually thought they could continue their personal activities in the house right in front of visiting technicians, and MAKE the technician not look in certain directions as if a horse wearing blinders. Several homes even had their man friday duct tape sheets over alarm panels and sensors around the house so I wouldn't see them and thus be able to break in later with that knowledge.

That's what outsiders need to know. If you want examples of really horrendously crazy paranoid snobs like something out of Caddyshack, Greennwich is your place to look.

Re:Cue the Classists, Please... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12874984)

That part of the state is often refered to as "The Gold Coast", due to the concentration of wealth in Greenwich as well as surrounding areas.

Re:Cue the Classists, Please... (1)

DoorFrame (22108) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875138)

Stay out of Greenwich's data, Lebowski! Stay out of Greenwich's data, deadbeat!

GIS data is public data (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12874794)

We, the public, paid for the government bureaucracy that gathered this data. We shouldn't have to pay for it again when we want to look at it. Kudos to the judge in this case.

Re:GIS data is public data (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12875010)

Well, you are mostly right. I've paid for the gathering of data, but I don't necessarily want to pay for the paper/bandwidth to distribute the data.

Wow! YRO that actually is related to O!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12874811)

About damn fucking time.

As as GIS guy, I kinda expect some limits (1)

doormat (63648) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874827)

I dont mind seeing parcel & associated information available as public information but I really would rather not disclose information on things like water and gas pipelines, other critical below-ground infrastructure (above ground probably shouldnt be given out either, but is not that hard to reverse engineer that data, just drive around).

Re:As as GIS guy, I kinda expect some limits (2, Interesting)

daemones (188271) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874870)

So when you want to dig in your own back yard you can't call the city and say "can I dig here, or will I hit a gas line?" because you might be a terrorist.

Restricting access to information is retarded. Rules should deal with actions, not with information.

Re:As as GIS guy, I kinda expect some limits (1)

doormat (63648) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875132)

Wow, you've never heard of Call Before You Dig? See, there is a phone number you call. 1-800-CALL-USA. All the utilities will come out and mark their lines on your property. Its not that hard.

Re:As as GIS guy, I kinda expect some limits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12874966)

So how exactly are people to determine where not to dig when they want to put in a fence/pool/volleyball court/etc.?

Infrastructure data is *vital* when taking up turf. If you don't have the data, you run an extremely high risk of damaging buried cable/mains.

Remember those stories about farmers and their backhoes taking out entire (network) pipelines because they didn't check this data? Or how about people striking a buried power line or gas main while they dig out the bed for a new fish pond? I happen to remember watching a show called "In A Fix" on TLC (Discovery 2) where they were doing nothing more than digging a post-hole for a deck covering, and managed to break through the water main for the property.

I applaud this ruling. This information belongs to the taxpayers, who should certainly have ready access to it.

Re:As as GIS guy, I kinda expect some limits (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874992)

terrorists generally don't have the means to destroy the underground infrastructure anyway. On the other hand, if you're China or Russia, a one megaton ground burst within a few thousand meters of gas or water lines will probably back up the customer service call lines......

But!!! (1)

temojen (678985) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875008)

I really would rather not disclose information on things like water and gas pipelines,

What if I want to dig a hole? I should just dig and hope I don't cut off power/water/phone service to the whole neighbourhood?

Re:But!!! (1)

doormat (63648) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875160)

Like I said in another post, there is the Call Before You Dig service in the USA. You call a phone number and utilities will come out and mark their lines on your property.

Gee I wonder why? (1)

geodescent (871514) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874855)

For more info on Greenwich's decision to fight, please contact sales@Greenwich-CT.com

Bittorent link? (0)

dfn5 (524972) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874862)

So where's the link to the bittorrent for this data?

Don't worry -- the data's already been "cleansed" (2, Interesting)

PeeAitchPee (712652) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874872)

Re:Don't worry -- the data's already been "cleanse (1)

xyzzyman (811669) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874973)

Re:Don't worry -- the data's already been "cleanse (1)

PeeAitchPee (712652) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875052)

Uhhh . . . I think you've centered Google on one of the Smithsonian buildings on the north side of the Mall. Drag the map east to west (right to left) and you'll see the same old mosaic'd out Capital and office buildings at the east end of the Mall.

Re:Don't worry -- the data's already been "cleanse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12874982)

*sigh*, which moronic congressman added something to a bill to block the Capitol and nothing else? I mean the White House and the Pentagon are both left alone.

Don't blame Microsoft for that... (1)

game kid (805301) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875036)

...or Google Maps [google.com] for that matter, either. They both use the same USGS Urban Area Ortho pictures that NASA World Wind [nasa.gov] can use. (I don't mean you, I mean any pending "M$" conspiracy theorists.)

Blame the government for trying to keep their own buildings from being seen in the Urban Ortho. (Interestingly, it's not concealed in the somewhat-lower-quality aerial ortho, also a USGS creation. [microsoft.com] )

Re: Don't worry - data's already been "cleansed" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12875075)

A bit absurd, actually, not only in principle, but in execution, since if you go to the black-and-white arial photographs [microsoft.com] , they still show everything.

But then, the usual M$ flavour silliness aside, absurdity seems to be the order of the day, all in the name of totally irrational 'security' measures.

Like, they didn't know this would happen? (4, Informative)

Billy the Mountain (225541) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874885)

I used to work in GIS and the recurring issue was: Information generated using public funds should be made publicly available. In the old days we would provide data so long as they paid for the media and the wages of the staff to generate the area in questiona and the computer operator for cutting the tape.

When I worked for Washington State Department of Natural Resources [wa.gov] , they had a formal system for selling their data that included a licensing agreement! Not sure if it was ever challenged in court or how they were able to justify licensing their data.

BTM

Re:Like, they didn't know this would happen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12874968)

Yeah, this decision seems perfectly rational and unsurprising. As the article states, all this data was available piecemeal from various town agencies, and while its collected form may represent a copyrightable work, it still should belong to the public domain as it is compiled from public sources using taxpayer dollars. As far as security concerns go, I sincerely doubt that the location and elevation of Eastern Middle School could not be otherwise discovered by interested parties.

As an aside, I grew up in Greenwich, and while it may have a reputation as a bastion of wealth and snobbery, there are those of us who had to drive used Bentleys to high school.

If they're that rich... (2)

winkydink (650484) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874899)

...why don't they just cover their entire property with cammo netting? :)

In NYS, GIS data is available under FOIA but copyr (4, Informative)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874901)

In some town on Long Island, they copyrighted their GIS data and tried to refuse to supply it under NYS's FOIL (Freedom Of Information Law). They were sued and lost, but .... were allowed to keep their copyright. So now the people who receive the data can only republish it if they don't violate the town's copyright. Blah.
-russ

Re:In NYS, GIS data is available under FOIA but co (1)

Ececheira (86172) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875011)

That doesn't make much sense since facts, according to copyright law, cannot be copyrighted.

i doubt it was the property line that concerned... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12874909)

I doubt it was the property lines that was the concern on the GIS data, and more likely the infrastructure (electric, telephone, natural gas, water etc) line information that was considered a security conceren.

Now i'm suprised they tried to restrict it as this stuff need to be frely available with little inconveince so that you don't have somebody sticking a bloody great digger through one of them. Trust me, contractors can be lazy and if there is an added inconvience to them getting neccisary health and safety information they might skip it if three is a time/money pressure on.

And it would be nice if they had this collated in a single document. In the UK most infrastructure supplies are considered statutory authorities and hold this infomation themselves which means you have to approach about 60 companies to ensure that a parcel of land does not have any hidden dangers underneath. Which is why we have the odd powerline cut etc.

Re:i doubt it was the property line that concerned (1)

gregfortune (313889) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875094)

Heh, in the US, we just cut stuff anyway. Take, for instance, a main fiber line for a major telco whacked by a backhoe... That was a fun day.

The data should be public (2, Interesting)

bosewicht (805330) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874915)

I am a GIS professional and we went through something like this a while back at a County gov office I worked at. What data should be public and what shouldn't. Our policy was that the data was paid for by tax payers money so all data should be made publicly available at no cost, why charge the taxpayer twice for the same thing. The only exceptions were if there was a probable threat to the safety of an individual or the community. Which in our case the names and addresses of police officers, judges, etc. Maybe the voters should be a little more vocal in Portland.

I guess GPS would work in a pinch (2)

bovinewasteproduct (514128) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874924)

I really don't see the reason for the restrictions. If someone wanted location information, they would just drive there and record the figures their $100 GPS reciever spit out. More than close enough for a missle or something of the kind.

BWP

Who needs GIS. Get a map! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12874934)

1. Go to http://www.mapquest.com./ [www.mapquest.com]
2. Type in Greenwich, CT.
3. See a map of the town!

- or -

Stop by any gas station in the area and ask for a map.

Rest assured terrorists won't ever think to do this. Why? Well, we all know without any help from GIS data, they just drool on themselves all day long. Only GIS data makes them smarter than the average snail.

Are they serious? (5, Funny)

WAR-Ink (876414) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874961)

Greenwich: "If we make this information public, Saddam might bomb our latte shops."
Court: "Saddam is in jail."
Greenwich: "We meant Iran. There is great personal risk to our over-priced coffee industry."
Court: "I think you can survive."
Greenwich: "What about trade secrets. A map of our town is a trade secret."
Court: "You are aware that they are available at the corner gas station for a dollar fifty, right?"
Greenwich: "Not the electronic kind."
Court: "...which is free at Mapquest."
Greenwich: "You are abusing your authority!"
Court: "Get out before I have you shot."
Greenwich: "The next time you are drinking an double express mocha and a AGM-154 JSOW lands on you, just remember, we told you so."
Court: "Next case!"

Continuation (3, Funny)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875006)

Court: "Bailiff?"
Balifff: "Yes?"
Court: "Judging from the name, Greenwich likely voted for Ralph Nader, and is a Satanist. Please take the prisoner to Gitmo."
Baliff: "Gladly, Worm, your honor!"
Court: "Now, call the schoolmaster!"

Will they charge stiff fees? (1)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12874980)

Will they end up making it available, but charge stiff "processing" fees like some governments do for accessing public property and court records?

Re:Will they charge stiff fees? (1)

Trizero (882635) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875068)

I wouldn't doubt it. Or they may make it available on computers in the Municipal Building. Being a reporter in a small town, it's easy to see that how fearful of technology some people are, and how difficult it is to get someone to give up information that should be free knowledge. Take public schools for instance. Pennsylvania's Department of Education had a large amount [paprofiles.org] of information available about public schools. However this abundence of data has been reduced to this (.pdf) [k12.pa.us] .

Re:Will they charge stiff fees? (2, Funny)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875195)

As long as you pay $60 a page to be able to xerox it, and it is found in a locked file cabinet in the basement behind a door that says "Beware of Leopard", it is available to the public.

sup (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12875003)

Personally I would in GIS, and I feel people should infect have to pay to get the GIS information, otherwise, you have people taking public domain GIS and making profit off the information. It's just stupid that people steal government information for their own profit. Especially since GIS people put so much work in the converges, then see it taken and abused by the public.

"Stolen" ? (5, Interesting)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875100)

"It's just stupid that people steal government information for their own profit"

Is this a first? Authorized and legal duplication of information is being called "theft" here.

"Especially since GIS people put so much work in the converges, then see it taken and abused by the public."

And here is the other thing wrong with your statement. Government road crews put a lot of hard work into building and maintaining roads, don't they? And yet, if it is not a toll road, you will be shocked to find that there are businesses that actually have company cars and trucks using these roads. Such an abuse! And libraries? There are legions of nonfiction authors who research those free library books and then make a profit from the information when they sell their books. I bet you agree that it would be a great improvement if libraries charged $10 for each book checked out! Stop those profiteers from stealing information!

FirsT post (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12875048)

to get some eye I type this. we don't sux0r as They are Come

Huh? (1)

Mithrandir3791 (447811) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875069)

How does this [google.com] compromise personal and national security?

Memories of Greenwich (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12875077)

Stupid stuff about this town:

The whole town is rich... filthy rich.
A while back everybody started building heliports on their property to make commuting to the city easier.
People were so annoyed they passed a law forbiding helicopters from landing within town boarders.
A little less far back there was a bad car accident that required immediate medivac.
Within a week there were multiple lawsuits against the town because of the medivac helicopter. The reason: If the town could allow an exception for one helicopter to land, then everybody should be allowed to use one all the time.

They also didn't allow out of towners on their beaches... at all.
The feds sued them.
Now their illegal immigrant help shares the beach with them! Oh the humanity!

The town is also very paranoid... see story. :D

Privacy (1)

dhanks (588795) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875083)

I wouldn't want my name, address and other "public" information broadcasted and readily available to people I do not know or trust. If it's public information, that's fine - there should fee when someone wants to access it. That way there is a paper trail that links who looked at what.

Finally! (1)

ViceClown (39698) | more than 9 years ago | (#12875098)

Now the great and terrible secrets of Geeks In Space will be available to us all! Muahahahaha!!!
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