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911 Call Tracking Site Stirs Concern

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the they-could-at-least-have-used-a-GIF dept.

239

Frosty Piss writes, "This story comes from the Seattle Post-Intellegencer. For the past year, John Eberly has operated Seattle911.com, a site that until this week took real-time feeds of 911 calls from the Seattle Fire Department and plotted them on Google Maps. But on learning of Eberly's site, officials cited 'security concerns' and altered the way they display 911 calls on their Web site, changing the format from text to graphical, preventing Eberly from acquiring the raw data. (Several programmers are quoted musing how trivial it would be to work around this evasion.) Fire officials worry that allowing others to display where fire crews are on an Internet map could make things easier if terrorists were planning an attack. That logic left Eberly and others scratching their heads, as the information continues to be publicly available on the Fire Department's site. 'We're not obligated to provide this information. It's something that we did for customer service in the first place,' a Fire Department spokesperson said. So is this public information? Should the data be available to the public in real time?" The Seattle P-I story ends with a quote from Bruce Schneier: "The government is not saying, 'Hey, this data needs to be secret,' they are saying, 'This data needs to be inconvenient to get to.'"

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GNAA (-1, Troll)

ThatFunkyMunki (908716) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440207)

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About Rob Levin:

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Beware of the Leopard (5, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440217)

"But the plans were on display ..."

"On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."

"That's the display department."

"With a torch."

"Ah, well the lights had probably gone."

"So had the stairs."

"But look, you found the notice didn't you?"

"Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard."

Re:Beware of the Leopard (1)

remembertomorrow (959064) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440233)

I'd be more worried about grue attacks than leopard attacks in the dark to be completely honest.

Not needed (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16440503)

There are these things called scanners....you can hear the cops in real-time

Re:Not needed (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440891)

Aren't they illegal?

Re:Not needed (1)

nilknarf (894207) | more than 7 years ago | (#16441079)

Only if you it in the commission of a crime.

Unsure what to make of this (5, Funny)

skrew (111096) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440237)

They're afraid of terrorists attacking a fire?

Re:Unsure what to make of this (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16440347)

Terrorism risk my ass. My guess as to the real concern? The politicians are afraid that people might see how damned dangerous certain parts of town (read: slums) really are, sending property values into the crapper and perhaps launching a round of White Flight. You see, it's easier to deny a problem exists (or mask the extent) than to fix it.

All the typical poli behaviours are here on display -- denial, obfuscation, evasion and just plain old lying.

Re:Unsure what to make of this (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16440435)

Mod parent up! This describes Seattle perfectly!

In Seattle there is a non-existent homeless situation. That is because we refuse to believe that there are tens of thousands of homeless in the downtown area. They're actually tourists who smell bad and push around shopping carts. Probably Canadians.

When people start to see that there are hundreds of calls for medical emergencies (i.e. free cab service) in the downtown area late at night, they might realize that the homeless problem in Seattle is much more extensive than anyone wants to admit.

Re:Unsure what to make of this (0, Offtopic)

Skreems (598317) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440647)

First off, "tens of thousands" is pushing it. Several thousand? Maybe. Out of a metro of 4 million people, that's not all that bad, and the city is actively working on fixing this.

Secondly, medical emergency calls are "free cab service"? Wtf? I'm guessing you're either trolling, or just stupid.

Re:Unsure what to make of this (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16440749)

Work in a downtown convenience store for about a year and you will learn how the city really works. And yes the number is tens of thousands. And yes the homeless do use ambulances for trivial reasons, many times including transportation from somewhere to the hospital.

But feel free to deny that the problem exists. After all, downtown Seattle certainly does look pretty cosmopolitan. Obviously we've solved or are solving all of our issues. But if that were true why are all business types afraid to be downtown at roughly 8:00 PM when the 'youths' come out?

There are tens of thousands of meth junkies alone in downtown Seattle. That is why petty theft, car thefts, and car breakins in Seattle are among the highest in the country. But we wouldn't want to let anyone know about them in case it damaged real estate values would we? Nor would we want people to know that the homeless go from downtown Seattle in the day to the U-district at night to search through trash. If you want to get a better count of the homeless population feel free to check the I-5 underpasses at night (if you are brave enough). Check out Green Lake. Have fun.

Re:Unsure what to make of this (3, Informative)

mikael (484) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440415)

I don't about the USA, but in the UK we've got problems with neds (non-educated delinquents) setting up bonfires to lure firefighters to their neighbourhood, then throwing stones at the firecrews and vehicles, all just for fun.

Re:Unsure what to make of this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16440483)

But the idea of them using the internet to check that the fire crews are in their neighbourhood beforehand is pretty funny :)

Re:Unsure what to make of this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16440537)

I don't about the USA, but in the UK we've got problems with neds (non-educated delinquents) setting up bonfires to lure firefighters to their neighbourhood, then throwing stones at the firecrews and vehicles, all just for fun.

The obvious solution is to provide firefighters with flame throwers.

Re:Unsure what to make of this (1)

ctr2sprt (574731) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440817)

It happens in the US as well, though I'm not sure how common it is. (The nature of the thing makes it really prone to urban legends.) The ones you hear about are gangs, who use guns rather than stones. They'll also call 911 and report fake medical emergencies to lure ambulances. Since most emergency crews show up with a police escort - at least partially for just this reason; I'm told that paramedics are instructed not to get out of the ambulance until the cops arrive - they also order pizza or Chinese. Usually in the latter case the result is "just" a beating and/or mugging.

I actually strongly sympathize with the gubmint here. Because they realize the information serves a legitimate public interest, they're not trying to take it away. They're just trying to ensure it's not abused to endanger the lives of public servants, who in some cases live pretty dangerous lives already. I don't think the solution the government came up with is a good one (for obvious technical reasons), but I think it's important that everyone understand there is a serious concern here.

Re:Unsure what to make of this (4, Insightful)

perlchild (582235) | more than 7 years ago | (#16441035)

Why is it still on the 911 site then?
I fail to see what purpose it serves to remove the googlemaps of the same data
I doubt that terrorists are that much less technical than the people of the seattle911.com site.
The only reason I can see with keeping the data public(on the 911 web site, not the seattle911.com one) might be public access to information laws or some other regulatory issue. If the information is public, let seattle911.com do whatever it wants with it. If the goal is to prevent terrorism, don't MASK the information, take it off the 911 web site too.
We aren't talking about an intranet here.
The public servants are alrady at risk, since it's PUBLIC information.
The only reason I can see to keep the info public, but not let seattle911.com use it, is that if seattle911.com is ad-based, and they don't want the seattle911.com to benefit for free, from this information. But in that case, that's what a cease and desist letter is for.
If it really is that risky for the public servants, why isn't the information better protected? How is publicising the info on only one site that much less safe than on two?

Re:Unsure what to make of this (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440905)

And yet such people can still access the information they need to see if the firefighters are... already in their neighbourhood?

Re:Unsure what to make of this (1, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440423)

They're afraid of terrorists attacking a fire?

It might be possible to wait for many of the emergency vehicles to be on one side of the city and then start a fire on the other side of the city.

Re:Unsure what to make of this (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16440567)

Fortunately, most cities have planned for this by having *several* fire trucks.

Re:Unsure what to make of this (4, Interesting)

bmo (77928) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440579)

"It might be possible to wait for many of the emergency vehicles to be on one side of the city and then start a fire on the other side of the city."

Funny, that can be done _without_ computers _or_ 911 tracking.

These guys are just worried that someone might point to poor performance. That's all. It's entirely _cya_.

--
BMO

Re:Unsure what to make of this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16440583)

Okay.

But as the summary points out: "That logic left Eberly and others scratching their heads, as the information continues to be publicly available on the Fire Department's site."

Re:Unsure what to make of this (4, Insightful)

SmurfButcher Bob (313810) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440607)

And from TFA, this is still trivially possible. The data source is plainly available, just not easily parsed (which is a total non-issue for the short-term opportunist you describe).

Secondly, there's no need to wait for such placement; it'd be trivial to simply engineer that situation with a few 911 calls / events of your own.

Personally, I'd say they're offended that their "cool tool" got one-upped.

Re:Unsure what to make of this (4, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440697)

It might be possible to wait for many of the emergency vehicles to be on one side of the city and then start a fire on the other side of the city.

In Seattle? In any large city with widely dispersed fire and police resources? That better be one Hell of a fire if everyone in the whole fuckin' city is there...

Anyway, many people are asking WHY someone would need this info, but that's the wrong question. The question should be "why shouldn't they have it"? And from the story, clearly they still do have it, just not from this guy's site. The city still has this info up on their site.

And why do most people who are interested in this stuff want access to it? The same reason people buy scanners, because it's interesting to follow what's going on.

Re:Unsure what to make of this (5, Insightful)

Matilda the Hun (861460) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440729)

Except that they're not going to sit and wait for a bunch of fires to spontaneously sprout at the other side of the city, then run into another building with a match. If they really wanted to do that, they would *set* several fires at the other side of the city. And you don't need to track firetrucks to know that that's where they're going to be.

Re:Unsure what to make of this (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16440775)

I think they're afraid of terrorists making fires that, when plotted on Google Map, make a smiley face.

Inconvienient? (5, Insightful)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440247)

Come on, does anyone really think that making the information a tiny bit harder to get is going to discourage real terrorists? Why do so many people persist in the idea that if we make the world hard to use that bad people won't be able to use it, bad people are the ones who will invest the time to learn how to work the system. A change like this does one thing, inconvieniences those people who may have found some use for this program. It doesn't stop terrorist, it doesn't help the public, it doesn't even make a good public relations story. How long before someone rebuilds the site to grab the graphics and translate them do you think? And how long after that before the govenment makes the data in those funny letters on forums at which point they may as well not even publish it. Every time I think I've grasped the limit of stupidity it moves further and further away...

Re:Inconvienient? (3, Insightful)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440297)

"Why do so many people persist in the idea that if we make the world hard to use that bad people won't be able to use it, bad people are the ones who will invest the time to learn how to work the system."

If this were true, then almost everything that the US govt has done to prevent terrorism would be a mistake. Oh, wait....

Re: Inconvienient? (1)

transporter_ii (986545) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440337)

Yeah, while a terrorist might use the web site, if they didn't have it, I think a terrorist could manage to find, oh, I don't know...a scanner. Maybe they have encryption there, but in Texas, huge amounts of radio traffic is in the clear. And the reason they do that is because we have a large number of volunteer fire departments and a lot of them use radios they bought with money from their own pockets (and radios with encryption are really expensive). So if the scramble the calls, a fair amount of people that need to hear the information wouldn't be able to.

Transporter_ii

Re:Inconvienient? (2, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440351)

Come on, does anyone really think that making the information a tiny bit harder to get is going to discourage real terrorists?

My ex girlfriend had this side gate on her house which was hard to open but not locked. He housemate insisted that I put a lock on it so I did. Didn't bother me because I always just stepped over the gate rather than trying to open the bloody thing. She sees a potential thief as being like herself but I think the thief is going to be more like me, ie, able to step over a 1 metre high gate.

The people who want this site changed have never heard of OCR. They just don't want to explain to their even less tech savvy boss that there is no way to make this information secure without not releasing it.

Re:Inconvienient? (4, Insightful)

49152 (690909) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440925)

No, but it gives the naive masses the impression that the government is doing something to stop the bad guys.

It really does not matter if it works or not.

Why do we need it? (1, Insightful)

aridhol (112307) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440253)

Is it important to know, in real-time, where emergency crews are? Why? So you can chase the ambulance that much easier? To gawk as crews try to rescue people, and possibly get in the way?

Re:Why do we need it? (3, Funny)

Free_Meson (706323) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440305)

EMS heckling is a big thing here. Lots of fun.

You call that a tracheotomy?

Maybe I'm spending too much time w/med students, though.

Re:Why do we need it? (5, Insightful)

Yehooti (816574) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440319)

If we're not a first responder, why do we need the info in real time? I'd agree with letting the information out, but delaying it for, say an hour or so. Not to make it inconvenient to get to, just not immediate info.

Re:Why do we need it? (3, Insightful)

doormat (63648) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440399)

This is the most sensible solution - delay. The FAA does this with radar info, its all delayed 15 minutes. 15 minutes might be too soon for this info, but an hour seems reasonable.

Its a shame that the people running the system are too worried about public perception and politics instead of thinking about the problem.

Re:Why do we need it? (1)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440827)

Oh, that's good and well nowadays but what about terrists from THE FUTURE? Eh?!

Yeah. It's just nuts.

Re:Why do we need it? (3, Interesting)

loneconspirator (1013705) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440543)

From my experience, people often use this service to answer the question "what the heck are all those sirens???" For this purpose, a real time service is essential. In addition, it is a good public service to let the population know if that volley of emergency vehicles that careened past their homes are getting a cat out of a tree or chasing down an axe wielding maniac.

The data isn't normalized so response dispatchments to the same place can be peppered throuh the data. Mapping the data greatly simplifies understanding what's going on.

That said, the data presented was minimal, the listings we're linked into full police reports, but said "medic response", "automatic fire alarm", etc. Occasionally, one could find "haz mat spill cleanup" or "armed assult". The system also tells you if the incident is closed. Overall, a nice service to have to know what's going down in your neighborhood.

Anyway, making it inconvenient to access is a silly half retraction of the service.

Re:Why do we need it? (1)

elgee (308600) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440335)

Is it important to know, in real-time, where emergency crews are?

Perhaps lawyers think so.

Re:Why do we need it? (3, Insightful)

M0b1u5 (569472) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440387)

>Re:Why do we need it?

So the GPS tranceivers in emergency vehicles can provide data so that alternate routes for other road users can be made to permit safer emergency travel, and less stops and inconveniences for the remainder of road users.

Eventually, when cars are automatic, such a feedback loop will be a natural part of the road navigation process. This will increase efficiency, decrease traffic congestions and decrease travel times for all concerned.

Re:Why do we need it? (2, Interesting)

Wilson_6500 (896824) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440475)

So your travel-aide computer can automatically alert you to the fact that your planned route is blocked by a huge accident very soon after the acciden occurs?

Re:Why do we need it? (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440937)

If they were worried about people having the information, they wouldn't release it in the first place.

911 feeds? (2, Insightful)

transporter_ii (986545) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440275)

If this was just for fires, I don't think it is incredibly bad, but my first thought on seeing the headline was, "why are they releasing 911 data in the first place?" I mean, were they posting medical emergencies, too? That is kind of creepy.

But on the other hand, if they were releasing the information, I don't see anything wrong with someone actually using the data. The shock to me is that they were releasing it publicly...in real time to begin with.

Transporter_ii

Re:911 feeds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16440345)

Every public agency must release as much information about its operations as possible as long as that doesn't violate security or privacy concerns. This allows for public oversight. Otherwise we end up with cases like the police force in New Orleans with 700 non-existent officers.

It is a little creepy that anyone could know that your grandma just had a medical emergency, but that doesn't mean that the information should be bottled up. Otherwise the police and fire departments would have to talk on encrypted frequencies when responding to emergencies. By calling 911 you give up your right to privacy so that public authorities can respond to the incident. Unlike the corporate world, those agencies have no interest in being efficient or truthful unless there is strong public oversight. After all, they don't have to make a profit (and any issues will usually mean only more tax dollars given to them).

Re:911 feeds? (1)

transporter_ii (986545) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440403)

It is a little creepy that anyone could know that your grandma just had a medical emergency, but that doesn't mean that the information should be bottled up.

I don't think the issue is that my grandmother's medical emergency should be bottled up. I think the issue is, does my grandmother's medical emergency need to be put up on a web site...in real time.

Transporter_ii

Re:911 feeds? (1)

Nataku564 (668188) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440717)

So ... because its faster that means its more creepy? Really, unless someone is just sitting there hitting F5 constantly, this wont even come into the equation.

I don't get get it. (1, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440291)

I don't quite get it. I can't read the article as the link ends up at a non-existant blog post.

I'll have to start out by saying I'm amazed such information was ever available. I'm just surprised anyone would think to post that for people.

I have to say I'm with the government on this one. Why does anyone need to know exactly where all the 911 calls are coming from in real time? I can understand why such data should be available, but why not give it a 24 hour delay? There are just SO many uses for this data for evil (where you can torch a house, when you can steal something with few cops nearby, where you can go to ambulance chase the most successfully, etc.).

If you have a good reason for needing the data in real time, I see no problem with using a simple free registration to get to it.

I just don't see why this needs to be available to the public in real time.

Frankly, I'd be more worried about other people having it. Not just for the stuff listed above, but for neighbors watching to see if I were to call and other uses like that which I wouldn't be big on. A particularly savvy criminal (or group) could rob houses and track local 911 calls to see when the cops have been tipped off about them so they know when to split.

Or, if you have a restraining order against you, you could watch when the police get called to the house then go in after they leave.

I can't think of any good reason why most people need this live. I can't think of a single one. Businesses, I can think of a few, but private citizens?

Re:I don't get get it. (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440401)

Businesses, I can think of a few, but private citizens?

Why should the two be differentiated?

Re:I don't get get it. (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440461)

I'd prefer neither had it, but if only known businesses could get the live data that would be less risky than letting everyone have it.

Re:I don't get get it. (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440433)

I just don't see why this needs to be available to the public in real time

I used to work for the local road authority. We published real time information on traffic accidents so that people could avoid dangerous and congested roads.

Re:I don't get get it. (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440449)

And that makes perfect sense. I've heard of other cities doing that and putting up electronic signs to warn of accidents and constructions ahead. But that is something useful to people. You can avoid an accident. I don't think 911 information is the same at all. I see no use for it.

Re:I don't get get it. (2, Insightful)

Nataku564 (668188) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440727)

So, if there is a fire downtown you don't think it will possibly make traffic just a tiny bit more congested?

Re:I don't get get it. (1)

RomulusNR (29439) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440797)

It was only fire department calls; fires and paramedics. No police calls.

Re:I don't get get it. (1)

Chokai (10224) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440943)

Frankly, I'd be more worried about other people having it. Not just for the stuff listed above, but for neighbors watching to see if I were to call and other uses like that which I wouldn't be big on. A particularly savvy criminal (or group) could rob houses and track local 911 calls to see when the cops have been tipped off about them so they know when to split. That is why the information posted is for fire and medical units only. The location of police calls are not posted. Although if it is a police call involving injuries (i.e a shooting) you'll see the calls go out for the appropriate medical units.

explanation (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16440945)

Just last week. Chemical explosion and nasty fire in north carolina.Not the first, not the last. I guess you could wait 24 hours to tell people about it, as the clouds of shit that could kill them drifted over them. How about brush fires, you ever been in one? I used to fight them as a volunteer, sometimes people have minutes to evac- minutes, tops-so they shouldn't have a way to find out until it's too late? How about armed standoffs or bad car crashes that block whole roads for hours? Would it be nice to know about them in a timely manner? How about if you are a newsie, nice to get to where the news is going down? I can think of a LOT of reasons why this restriction is misguided, lame, stupid and fairly unconstitutional once you get down to it.

Really, this is government public business, the public has every right in the world to be informed of it, absolutely no different from any joe citizen can go sit in on court to any case you want if there's room in the pews.. no different at all, really.

  This is allegedly a government by and for the people, not by and for the 1% connected elite and their hired on order taking and following drones. We had a revolution over that bit, remember?

  Government is supposed to hold only a few cards with our express permission, everything else IS our business and THEY work at our suffrance, as our employees. I, for one, am SICK AND TIRED of government-as-masters and overlords who assume everything is theirs by default and you must grovel before them. As the expression goes, F dat shyte! They have just usurped all the powers and now make you beg for it, and whenever they find out you are using your born with rights they get all bent out of shape and want to take it away or sell you "permission" or something. Screw that! We tell them what to do, not the other way around! This ain't a massah/slave deal, none of that plantation action, no thanks!

Giving into this "everything revolves around terrorism" stuff is pure grade-A brainwashed crapola. You are a smart guy, you *really* don't believe all this hysteria crap they have whipped up to control the mouth breathers, do you? I understand the 'tards swallowing it because they think pro rasslin' is real, but not anyone normal who is reasonably intelligent. You can see through it for the extreme power grab and consolidation it really is? The Heglian Dialectic angle? Think about it, really think, imagine you are joe terrorist.. Anyone with a room temp IQ and above, with "tools" available at any qucikstore starting with a cig ligter, working completely alone, could go around the country and commit "acts of terrorism" on a daily schedule. And get away with it. Assymetrical warfare, pretty easy stuff really. So--where's the beef, where are all the attacks from the "OMG fundy islamofascist tarists sleeper cells all over gonna steal our freedom fries and rape the cattle!". Well??? Where are all the attacks?? There aren't any except for over were THEIR nations are being invaded, which is more or less understanable given the context of them..being invaded.

    Maybe we have had one or two-maybe-I am still not convinced yet, to me it looks a lot more like a government reichstagg fire inside job.. the evidence we can see points way more to it being an inside job, using some stupid patsies at best.

    Anyway, this "terrorism" jazz is primarily pushed for and by the coup plotters and those who profit from this coup takeover, and it really *is* a coup that has happened. They use "terrorist" as this generations buzzword to induce and perpetuate fear, uncertainty and doubt.

It's a scam, man, really, a freakin' scam...

The general rational (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440299)

While I think this specific case is somewhat asinine, the general rational has always been that enough public information, when compiled, can be considered "sensitive" or "classified".

Like that one kid's thesis detailing the layout of internet backbone cables, or back in the day when basic nuclear theory was available in public texts, but was still considered a gov't secret.

Re:The general rational (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440657)

While I think this specific case is somewhat asinine, the general rational has always been that enough public information, when compiled, can be considered "sensitive" or "classified".

You don't have to have a lot of information to reach that point ... just the identity of one undercover LEO is enough to jeopardize him, his team, or even everyone that might be a victim of what that officer is in the middle of trying to catch/prevent. Clandestine activities are part and parcel of some law enforcement and defense activities, and even your local county or municipal agencies have some need of that - especially if they want to be able to retain quality people (who will insist on not having their names splashed all over the internet while they're doing things like infiltrating MS-13 in your kid's school zone, etc).

Which isn't to say that emergency response people are doing something clandestine, but someone looking to, say, attract medics/cops to a scene where they've planted a bomb, or any other technique as we've seen polished in the Middle East lately, might still be able to leverage real-time 911 info.

Paranoid Seattle Buses (4, Interesting)

LionKimbro (200000) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440303)

I was in a metro [metrokc.gov] bus and wanted to take a picture of some trees outside. The bus driver told me, "Hey, you can't take pictures in here."

I asked, "Why not?!"

He said, "I'm actually supposed to report you to the police, if you do. Terrorism."

"What are they going to do, reverse engineer the bus timetables from photographic evidence? This can't possibly make us any safer."

He replied, "Well, who's to say."

Who's to say indeed.

Absolutely absurd.

Note that busview [busview.org] will give you the location of all Metro busses in real time.

Re:Paranoid Seattle Buses (2, Insightful)

wish bot (265150) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440425)

I travelled around Serbia about 10 years ago while they were still 'Communist'. There were often signs around roads, bridges, towns, etc, with 'No Photography' symbols. At the time I really appreciated that we were free from that kind of paranoia and ridiculous restriction in the 'west'.

Re:Paranoid Seattle Buses (1)

SarekOfVulcan (133772) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440883)

I took my camera down into the bus tunnel shortly after some got busted for "terrorism". Then I did it again right before it closed for retrofitting. I had one driver comment on it the first time, but he didn't threaten me.

http://flickr.com/photos/sarekofvulcan/tags/bustun nel/ [flickr.com]

Yes, anything can be turned into an argument... (3, Insightful)

Max Threshold (540114) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440325)

...about the Second Amendment.

"The government is not saying, 'Hey, this data needs to be secret,' they are saying, 'This data needs to be inconvenient to get to.'"

Now they just need to apply the same logic to their lists of gun owners.

Re:Yes, anything can be turned into an argument... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16440455)

>> Now they just need to apply the same logic to their lists of gun owners.

Some jurisdictions publish concealed weapon permit data.

What's your plan for that info? Going to deny a renter or move somewhere 'safe'? If you think owning a firearm is something exceptional, you're naive. US Citizens are armed to the teeth.

Re:Yes, anything can be turned into an argument... (1)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440499)

An ill be damned if I can't be armed to the teeth.

make it available delayed then (2, Insightful)

GroeFaZ (850443) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440327)

I don't know seattle911.com, so I don't know if it's absolutely critical to have the data in real-time. But if not, just make the data available in the convenient format, but an hour or so later. As far-fetched as the terrorist scenario may sound, with this solution everybody could be happy, no? Or is this just another subtle reminder of the never-ending War on Terrer?

Re:make it available delayed then (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440383)

I could not agree more.
The only reasonable scenario for having this data live is on the PDA of city officials and fire crews on the ground.
Even if that were the case it still should not be available to the public public without a delay.

Why? (1)

syukton (256348) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440551)

Why shouldn't the public know what's going on in their city or locale?

If a fire broke out at my apartment complex, I don't want to know five minutes from now, I want to know right fucking now. If there's been a shooting at my (hypothetical) kid's school, I don't want to know five minutes from now, I want to know NOW. What makes "public city officials" more special than the rest of us when it comes to information that could be used to adequately protect our families and friends better than the spread-thin public servants could?

If we have access to information in realtime and there's a number of simultaneous robberies or other police emergencies and the police are all out doing their policey thing and then a riot breaks out on 5th Avenue, don't you want to be able to call your family that lives on 8th Avenue before the rioters get there, to tell them to stay away from the windows and lock the doors? Keeping this information from the public is completely stupid, it's just one more opportunity to mention the wonderful war on terror, something which itself has a more frightening affect on the public than any terrorist act they've ever witnessed or been close to.

Re:Why? - What are YOU going to do about it? (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440645)

If the fire fighting professionals are on-site dealing with your burning apartment, what difference is it going to make if you know about it "right fucking now", or when you pull up, after work, to whatever has been saved or lost to the firefighters?

Is your right to know that your porn collection is going up in flames "right now" more important than giving away "potentially" useful information of where first-repsonders are, "right now"?

Of course, if I were a terrorist, I would have no problem setting any number of nuisance fires, if needed.

Re:Why? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440673)

But would you be continually be watching a screen just incase something happened? If your building catches on fire you'll probably find out faster because you'll hear the actual fire alarm. If it's the building next to yours, you're probably more likely to hear the sirens and look out the then you are to actually be online looking at a screen to find the information faster. I realize that it's nice to be able to know about things as soon as they happen, but unless you plan on watching the thing all day, I don't think it will really help that much.

Re:Why? (1)

fiddlesticks (457600) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440689)

'If there's been a shooting at my (hypothetical) kid's school, I don't want to know five minutes from now, I want to know NOW. What makes "public city officials" more special than the rest of us when it comes to information that could be used to adequately protect our families and friends better than the spread-thin public servants could?'

Cos you're not a public servant, so you turning up ('my kid is in there') might make things worse. Or are you superman, so your arrival makes it all better, unlike those 'spread-thin public servants'

Jesus, are all Americans as stupid as you? Can you really not conceive a world which isn't made better, but is made worse, by your attendence on the scene of a crime, at your (hypothetical) kid's school, or not?

Re:Why? (1)

fmobus (831767) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440921)

As some siblings commmented: you will know about the fire when you hear your building's fire alarm. KISS. And in your (hypothetical) kid's school shooting, you don't really need to be there NOW. You are not trained to deal with such situation, it's not your job. Or would you storm the school to save your kids? Leave it to Public Officers. Ask ANY officer/paramedic/firefighter. The worst thing to have around is people untrained to help. In a fire/police case, you're just one more (possible) victim/hostage. In a medical emergency, you're likely to obstruct paramedical team's path, wasting PRECIOUS seconds.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16440935)

If a fire broke out at my apartment complex, I don't want to know five minutes from now, I want to know right fucking now.

I suppose the sirens and alarms going off and people running out of the building aren't a big enough tip?

Awesome Info! (3, Funny)

Kid Zero (4866) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440343)

So the educated Pyro can wait until everyone is else where, hop on the motorbike, and start five, ten fires and really tie up the fire department. Great.

You could do that to begin with, but now you can plot your course to string everyone out better and more efficently.

Re:Awesome Info! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16440427)

And by "educated Pyro" I assume you mean a pyromaniac that can read. The solution to this problem is simple: ban reading!

Re:Awesome Info! (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440511)

The solution to this problem is simple: ban reading!

      Better yet, ban fire. Then send GWB to arrest some volcanoes.

Re:Awesome Info! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16440535)

he can make a smiley face with all the fires! or an animated fire map! brilliant!

Not an uncommon practice... (0, Offtopic)

nicc777 (614519) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440355)

Even John Eberly uses this trick on his own pages - check his Google e-mail address [eberly.org] on this page [eberly.org] . Of course there are good reasons to do so, but still...

911 calls are public record (1)

qwertphobia (825473) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440363)

In many places 911 calls are public record. Also, when the police are called (even if it's not 911), those reports are often public record.

I'm not sure if it applies to this Seattle or not, but it should be easy enough to find out. Here there are several public web sites where you can look at current fire/ems/traffic activity [lancaster.pa.us] or city police incident reports [lancasterpolice.com] . Both sites contain information available to the public by other means, and providing it on a web site helps to cut down on paper information requests.

There is no way it should be real-time. (2, Insightful)

topham (32406) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440375)


There is no way that 911 call information should be available at anything approaching real-time data.

They want to make the information available for customer service purposes then good, put it on a 24hr delay.

Re:There is no way it should be real-time. (2)

labrinid (68540) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440659)

It seems the image version is for current day data only, everything else is available in plain HTML, is still searchable, etc. There is a vast database going back to 1992!

Check out http://www2.seattle.gov/fire/realTime911/getDatePu bTab.asp [seattle.gov]

cheers,
alex

Re:There is no way it should be real-time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16440771)

Most all 911 calls are displayed on web for the county in FL where I live...but medical calls are not shown with actual address, just the map grid, due to HIPA(spelling=?) privacy rules...but things like fires and accidents are shown with updates every two minutes...I've found it very handy to determine if there is going to be a delay in my travel route, as traffic reports on radio are only every half-hour or so, depending on time of day...and also to know if there might be something that might cause me to turn on tv/radio for coverage of a breaking news event, like a fire.

Re:There is no way it should be real-time. (2, Insightful)

Cheapy (809643) | more than 7 years ago | (#16441021)

Why shouldn't it be?

Re:There is no way it should be real-time. (1)

rubicon7 (51782) | more than 7 years ago | (#16441043)

Why not make it available real-time, if the capability's there?

Is there a valid argument (read: not just "the terrorists will win!"), or is this just your $0.02?

Was that really Bruce? (1)

datajack (17285) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440391)

'This data needs to be inconvenient to get to.'
Isn't that exactly what 'secret' data is meant to be. From what I understand of basic information theory is that you cannot completely secure data, there will always - eventually - be a path to it, information security's job is to make it so inconvenient for an unauthorised person to get to, that by the time they reach it, it will be worthless. They only to permanently stop someone from learning a piece of data is to totally destroy it. (this is why encryption keys and passwords should expire at regular intervals).
I think that Schnieder must have been mis-quoted there, as data that has been purposefully made inconvenient to get to is, by it's nature, secret. Data that has been simply obfuscated and published is not secret or has been dealt with incorrectly.
If this data can cause national (or even local) security issue, then it should be classified and secret whilst that info is useful (i.e. publish it immediately when the crews get back to their base from the call).

used to be "due to liability" its now "terrorist" (2, Insightful)

viking80 (697716) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440459)

The standard big bad wolf that was used anytime someome wanted to stop you from doing something completely reasonable in the US used to be "Sorry, but due to liability, you cant...".

That implied some kind of financial damage if you did not listen.

Now the standard has changed to "terrorist threat". Imagine being sent to GitBay, shipped to Syria and tortured, and imprisoned forever. That is a hell of a lot more efficient.

I have noticed that in the US nobody dear to
1. Cross the line into the garage to look at the guys changing tires on their car anymore.
2. Allow thir children to ride in the shopping carts
3. Use opposite sex bathrooms
4. Engage in significan physical activity
5. Any other activity that looks like terrorist planning or execution.

Re:used to be "due to liability" its now "terroris (1)

Neoprofin (871029) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440731)

1) Why would I? I've never met my neighbors, and I don't really care what they do on their property. That's a problem of loss of community and has nothing to do with liability or terrorism.

2) Most shopping carts have a place to put your child, speaking as a former retail employee I suggest you use it. Most people who let their kids ride in the basket of the cart seem to forget what happens when they take their eyes of of it and the child stands up and moves, shifting the weight of the cart that only had three items in it to begin with, causeing the child to fall out. I've seen dented skulls, liability is the last thing a good parent would worry about.

3) That's not a liability issue, that's a politeness issue. There is rarely a reason to need to use the opposite sex bathroom and if you really, really, really, have to go that bad I'm sure someone will understand.

4) Depends where you go, still nothing to do with liability.

5) Is there something wrong with not looking like terrorists? I know I try to avoid visits from the ATF and FBI, I always thought that was a good thing.

Maybe I just missed the point of your post?

Re:used to be "due to liability" its now "terroris (1)

CustomDesigned (250089) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440911)

1) Why would I? I've never met my neighbors, and I don't really care what they do on their property. That's a problem of loss of community and has nothing to do with liability or terrorism.

He's talking about a service station. "Garage" is British for service station. When you're getting work done on your car, most service stations have a sign that says something like, "Due to insurance regulations, customers are not allowed on the shop floor."

Ban the internet (1)

yobjob (942868) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440547)

It's a tool that terrorists can use to coordinate an attack.

Re:Ban the internet (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440715)

I really think that had the internet been created by a corporation, or under a different political climate, that it would not be what we have today. Most things are build on a trust network, and anybody is able to do just about anything. Anybody can send an email to anybody, and you can also forge the email, and pretend it is from anybody. There's a lot of freedom on the internet. That gives it lots of power, but that also means that some people will use it for evil. Frankly I'm glad that the internet isn't bolted down to try to stop people doing things that others think they shouldn't. It means that those of use who are doing legitimate things have a much easier time doing it.

OMG! This is a real Vulnerability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16440587)

The fire crews are probably stationed in the various fire companies! And the ambulances are probably in the garage somewhere!

Maybe we should force our emergency personnel to live underground, popping up out of random holes and disappearing back down as quickly as possible. If we don't do something quick, then the terrorists will have won.

is it really the terrorists (1)

mikesd81 (518581) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440617)

Or is it just that it's no ones business who was in an accident other than the parties envolved? If I wrecked on I-81 (that's the closest highway in PA for me) who needs to know that? And don't say it's for traffic either, most radio stations do traffic on the hour.

Re:is it really the terrorists (1)

Nataku564 (668188) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440751)

Public emergency responses should be public knowledge. If you want to call a private service (Bell Ambulance comes to mind) to come and rescue you to keep your information private, then do so. However, I, as a taxpayer, want to know what is being done with my money, so I can supervise it.

logic this out a tad further (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16441045)

How do the radio and tv stations get their data to tell people? Really, how? Are they "secure government employees with the need-to-know"? Follow your reasoning and you would ban the press, except for the official state press, and put the "civilian" press on a 24 hour or never at all "delay". And why stop at 911, why not make it all government busness, I mean, if you aren't part of government, you don't need to know what's going on, nothing.

Can you see what's happening now better, extrapolate it a little?

uhh (1)

ThorGod (456163) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440663)

It either needs to be secret & kept secret or available. On the internet, once something's known, it's not hard to get at, at all. What are you going to do? Have it so people have to click through 20 different links before they get to a randomly changing URL of where the data is at? Shit.

Bypassing idiots (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16440685)

If you look at their current webpage [cityofseattle.net] it shows the dispatch list in jpg format.
1. use ocr software to convert to text
2. parse text
3. fuck them
4. pay your taxes for those ignorant bastards

"Security Reasons" (2, Insightful)

guisar (69737) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440709)

I was just at Heathrow over the weekend- waiting for my wife to get back from the duty free in Terminal 3. It's one of the world's crappiest terminals- not even chairs at the gate. SO there I am waiting, sitting on the only space available, the floor. Here comes some guard saying I can't sit there- "security reasons". So WTF am I supposed to do, call to my genie wife to bring me back into her bottle with her? "Security Reasons" is the catch phrase of power-hungry bureaucrats everywhere, it means, "I'd like to push you around and you'd don't dare even question me when I give you even an unreasonable command on a whim". I got a headache when I read about the RFID tags at the Hungarian airport. Security is used by all the worlds' despots as the rationale for their staying in power. No kidding Capt Obvious you say? Well, what's the best way to push aside this reason without being labeled treasonous?

Duh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16440723)

Guess no one at the Seattle Police department has ever heard of OCR software. Here's a sample from their oh so secure system. Took me perhaps 5 minutes to write a Perl script to do this:

10/14/2006 19:03 F0601013631 E2 400PineSt Aid Response
10/14/2006 19:01 F0601013611 E40 2006 Ne North9ate Way Aid Response
10/14/2006 19:01 F0601013601 A2E2 1stAvN/RepublicanSt Aid Response
10/14/2006 18:59 F0601013591 A5 M10 1561 Alaskan Way S Medic Response
10/14/2006 18:57 F0601013561 M31 820 Nw 95th St Medic Response
10/14/2006 18:54 F0601013571 E25 1511 E Mercer St Alarm Bell
10/14/2006 18:51 F0601013561 E35 820 Nw 95th St Medic Response
10/14/2006 18:50 F0601013541 L4 2nd Av / Broad St Motor Vehicle Accident

The real file is longer I just took the current events.

HIPAA (2, Informative)

Kerne (42289) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440737)

This has nothing to do with terrorism and just a small bit with security. I'm a Firefighter/Paramedic in Northern Florida. Most large incidents are picked up by local news agencies within hours and the information widely broadcast.

Publically disseminating private emergency call information in realtime can compromise a fire scene investigation and open medical responders up to HIPAA http://http//www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa/ [http] violation lawsuits. A patient's PHI (Personal/Private Health Information) includes anything that connects their name/address/whatever to their medical condition. This is also the reason EMTs and Paramedics in our EMS company are not allowed to take photos of motor vehicle crashes because that photo then becomes part of the patients medical record and must be protected under HIPAA regulation. We know that anyone with a radio scanner can listen to live dispatches and that's why we never give names over the radio. Briefly looking at Seattles dispatch page I don't see any PHI.

My opinion is that Seattle is overreacting a bit.

Florida Highway Patrol put incidents up on their website with a delay...http://www.1stresponder.com/ [1stresponder.com] First Responder News delays their "live" dispatch stories about 30 minutes. As long as no personal information is given the public has a right to know what emergencies are going on in their neighborhood. Many fire departments and EMS services are struggling to keep up with these information issues but it ultimately comes down to patient privacy. Would you want the world to know that you called an ambulance because you tripped over a garden hose and did a face-plant on your patio?

Terrorists, huh (2, Insightful)

Ozwald (83516) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440741)

By the same logic, websites that show traffic conditions [wa.gov] should be shut down too. Well, ya, terrorists can make sure they don't get stuck in parking lot on the I-5.

Oz

Some information *SHOULD* be hard to get (1)

i)ave (716746) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440965)

How much "public" information should be easily accessible from any keyboard in the world? I find that it is hard to argue for privacy-laws that protect one's private information when we simultaneously demand that every piece of government data be available from any keyboard with internet access. The problem is not whether or not a "terrorist" is going to get ahold of this information, the problem is that maybe the person who's house is burning down feels like his misfortune is a personal, private, or community-affair rather than an international circus-show for the amusement of anyone who has a computer. Why is any of this "public" information on the internet to begin with is beyond me. Just because data is technically public, it does not mean the term "public" should be defined, via the internet, to extend to everyone outside the precinct, beyond the city-limits, over state lines, beyond the timezones, and to everyone in the world with a computer. In my state, I can type in a URL and within seconds pop-up the detailed divorce records, claims, counter-claims, child-custody fights, of anyone in my state. Although a couple is certainly aware that their situation is on some level "public", why does the state feel that public should involve the entire world with internet-access? What's wrong with making someone, who is really interested, walk down to the courthouse and ask for a copy of the documents? At the least, it is likely to ensure that people who are viewing the information come from the same community, at the most it prevents employers-creditors-coworkers-jealous schoolmates of their children-and anyone else in the world from leasurely sitting on their ass behind a keyboard and poking their nose around where it doesn't belong. What business is it of everyone in seattle to know who's house is burning down at any given time? If the goal is to measure the effectiveness of the fire-department, then that can be done without doing it in real-time. But, I fail to see how this information that often involves tradgedy for the people involved should be turned into google-meshup for anyone with internet access to gawk over. If someone has a legitimate or illigitmate interest in knowing who's house burned, they should at least be required to get off their ass and go ask for a copy of the report at the county-clerk's office. The same goes for those prying around in someone's divorce case, or curious to know how fast someone was going when they got their last speeding ticket. Public information doesn't mean the entire world qualifies as public, and public doesn't mean it has to be convenient.

Why? (1)

LindseyJ (983603) | more than 7 years ago | (#16440987)

I can see the obvious reasons for doing this, but why were they done? In my experience, things like this almost never happen in a vaccume. Politicians don't just wake up one day and think "OH MY JESUS CHRIST WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT 911 DATA".

I don't live anywhere near Seattle (about as far away as you can get, actually, in Central Florida), so I don't know what the political climate over there is. So maybe someone from there can enlighten me. Is this the work of some activist/watchdog group? Was there a recent issue over there that had to do with 911 records or this site? Is it some politician who was low in the polls and did this so they could play the "Look how awesome I am on National Security" card come election time? I really would like to know.

Knowing programming in 'governmental' institutions (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 7 years ago | (#16441027)

Would be really funny if they just put some code in to generate images from it like this (I've seen captcha's done like this): /gen_image.php?street=1_infinite_loop&zip=95014&ca ll=police
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