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MAPPS Offers Guidelines on Privacy and Geospatial Data

October 1, 2015  - By 0 Comments

MAPPS, the national association of private-sector geospatial firms, released a Best Practices Guideline for firms’ handling of geospatial data to protect individual citizen privacy.

In an effort to establish best practices, principles and a self-regulatory framework for its member firms, a MAPPS task force led by MAPPS President Susan Marlow (Stantec, Nashville, Tenn.) drafted the guideline.

The guideline was developed in response to a March 2012 report of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), report Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change, in which “the Commission calls on individual companies, trade associations, and self-regulatory bodies to adopt the principles contained in the final privacy framework.”

The FTC sought to protect the privacy of individual citizens’ “sensitive” data, including “precise geolocation data” that included, for example, an address. However, FTC did not define the term “precise geolocation data” and recommended that before any firm could collect, store, or use such data, it would be required to “provide prominent disclosures and obtain affirmative express consent before using consumer data in a materially different manner than claimed when the data was collected…”

The MAPPS guideline provides assistance to firms when determining when it should obtain individual consent for collection of geospatial data and when it is not needed to protect privacy. It was released at the association’s annual conference held in July in Sunriver, Ore.

“Recent legislative and regulatory efforts to protect consumers and citizens in the name of privacy have cast a wide net, creating unintended consequences for mapping and geospatial firms,” said John Palatiello, MAPPS executive director. “Geospatial data is derived from images and data collected from a variety of airborne and space borne platforms, as well as other mobile and terrestrial-based acquisition systems. This imagery and data is collected, utilized and applied in geographic information systems (GIS) by companies operating within the safeguards, rights and framework established by the Fourth and 14th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, and with government often the client.  This document helps engage in lawful, ethical and professional practice that is respectful of individual citizens.”

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Tracy Cozzens

About the Author:

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

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