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"Spatially Speaking" is the official MAPPS blog providing information on topics related to the association and profession and MAPPS involvement with the issues.

 

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Update on the FTC Privacy Rule and it’s Impact on “Precise Geolocation Data”

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Monday, May 2, 2011
Updated: Thursday, August 11, 2011
The staff of the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) facilitated a meeting on Wednesday, April 27 to engage geospatial interests in federal, state and local government agencies, and the private sector in a dialogue with the staff of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding the FTC staff report, "Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change" and its proposal that firms engaged in collection, sharing or use of "precise geolocation data" about a citizen be required to obtain "affirmative express consent”  or advance approval of each such citizen.

MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello was invited to the meeting representing the private sector firms in the MAPPS membership.
The meeting resulted in a number of revelations.  But first, a little background.

In February 2009, the FTC issued a report "Behavioral Advertising Tracking, Targeting, & Technology” wherein it defined behavioral advertising as "the practice of tracking an individual’s online activities in order to deliver advertising tailored to the individual’s interests.”  While the report used the term "precise geographic location”, it was limited to internet activities, such as the use of "cookies" (FTC defined a cookie as a small text file that a website’s server places on a computer’s web browser. The cookie transmits information back to the website’s server about the browsing activities of the computer user on the site.) As a result of this relatively narrow scope of the report, it did not garner the attention of the geospatial community.

Legislation billed as protecting consumer privacy was drafted and introduced in Congress in 2010.  The Privacy report, a follow-up to the Behavior Advertising study, was much broader in its scope, application and reach, as well as its discussion of geolocation and its proposal for regulation of such activities, thus attracting the concern and attention of geospatial professionals.  MAPPS submitted comments to the FTC, issued a call for members' action, made a presentation to the National Geospatial Advisory, and secured letters of opposition to the FTC proposal from FGDC,vthe Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO), numerous MAPPS members and other stakeholders in the geospatial community.    

The MAPPS comment to FTC came on the heels of letters to the FCC, the Commerce Department, and Congress.

The community’s comments to FTC caused the April 27 FGDC-facilitated meeting, held at the U.S. Department of the Interior headquarters building in Washington, DC.

At the April 27 meeting, Palatiello pointed out that since the FTC only has jurisdiction over private, for profit companies (and not nonprofits organizations or universities, or government agencies), the FTC proposal would result in an unlevel playing field and unfair government competition with private firms.  The FTC staff confirmed its existing statutory authority is limited to commercial companies.  The discrimination against these companies was called unfair by a Federal agency official in the meeting.  Palatiello noted that while government agencies are not covered by FTC’s enforcement powers, the FTC privacy proposal did not exempt private firms working as contractors to government agencies.

The FTC staff, led by Christopher Olsen, Bureau of Consumer Protection, as well as attorneys Peder Magee and Katie Ratte of FTC's Division of Privacy & Identity Protection, complimented MAPPS for mobilizing comments from its members and the broader geospatial community.  Olsen called the comments "helpful” to calling attention to the expansive and undefined use of the term "precise geolocation data”.  He said "what you people (geospatial professionals) do is beyond what we intended” and admitted FTC needs to "put meat on the bones” of a definition of precise geolocation data in its final report.

Olson said the FTC staff’s intent is to control "pinpoint unique individuals in a precise location” and the collection of information on the "location of an individual, computer or device”.

Palatiello called such a narrowing "helpful” and "reassuring”.  He noted that MAPPS attempted, but was unable to define "precise geolocation data” for the purpose of FTC or Congressional intentions on privacy, but did recommend an exemption from such term.  That exemption included:

1. Any information about the location and shape of, and the relationships among, geographic features, including remotely sensed and map data;

2. Any graphical or digital data depicting natural or manmade physical features, phenomena, or boundaries of the earth and any information related thereto, including surveys, maps, charts, remote sensing data, and images;

3. Collection, storage, retrieval, or dissemination of graphical or digital data to depict natural or manmade physical features, phenomena, or boundaries of the earth and any information related to such data, including any such data that comprises a survey, map, chart, geographic information system, remotely sensed image or data, or an aerial photograph by surveyors, photogrammetrists, hydrographers, geodesists, cartographers, or other such mapping and geospatial professionals; and data originating from commercial satellite systems licensed to operate by the U.S. government, global positioning systems, geographic information systems, and airborne or terrestrial mapping equipment.

Palatiello also echoed comments by MAPPS member Kevin Pomfret, Esq (LeClairRyan, Richmond, VA) that any such definition or exemption must not preclude the development of new technologies, activities or applications or thwart the innovation that is driving the market.

Tags:  Congress  FCC  FTC  Geolocation Data  Privacy 

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Update on the FTC Privacy Rule and it’s Impact on “Precise Geolocation Data”

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Monday, May 2, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, June 20, 2012
 
The staff of the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) facilitated a meeting on Wednesday, April 27 to engage geospatial interests in federal, state and local government agencies, and the private sector in a dialogue with the staff of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding the FTC staff report, "Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change" and its proposal that firms engaged in collection, sharing or use of "precise geolocation data" about a citizen be required to obtain "affirmative express consent” or advance approval of each such citizen.

MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello was invited to the meeting representing the private sector firms in the MAPPS membership.
The meeting resulted in a number of revelations. But first, a little background.
In February 2009, the FTC issued a report "Behavioral Advertising Tracking, Targeting, & Technology” wherein it defined behavioral advertising as "the practice of tracking an individual’s online activities in order to deliver advertising tailored to the individual’s interests.” While the report used the term "precise geographic location”, it was limited to internet activities, such as the use of "cookies" (FTC defined a cookie as a small text file that a website’s server places on a computer’s web browser. The cookie transmits information back to the website’s server about the browsing activities of the computer user on the site.) As a result of this relatively narrow scope of the report, it did not garner the attention of the geospatial community.

Legislation billed as protecting consumer privacy was drafted and introduced in Congress in 2010. The Privacy report, a follow-up to the Behavior Advertising study, was much broader in its scope, application and reach, as well as its discussion of geolocation and its proposal for regulation of such activities, thus attracting the concern and attention of geospatial professionals. MAPPS submitted comments to the FTC, issued a call for members' action, made a presentation to the National Geospatial Advisory, and secured letters of opposition to the FTC proposal from FGDC, the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO), numerous MAPPS members and other stakeholders in the geospatial community.
 
The MAPPS comment to FTC came on the heels of letters to the FCC, the Commerce Department, and Congress.

 
The community’s comments to FTC caused the April 27 FGDC-facilitated meeting, held at the U.S. Department of the Interior headquarters building in Washington, DC.
 
 
At the April 27 meeting, Palatiello pointed out that since the FTC only has jurisdiction over private, for profit companies (and not nonprofits organizations or universities, or government agencies), the FTC proposal would result in an unlevel playing field and unfair government competition with private firms. The FTC staff confirmed its existing statutory authority is limited to commercial companies. The discrimination against these companies was called unfair by a Federal agency official in the meeting. Palatiello noted that while government agencies are not covered by FTC’s enforcement powers, the FTC privacy proposal did not exempt private firms working as contractors to government agencies.

 
The FTC staff, led by Christopher Olsen, Bureau of Consumer Protection, as well as attorneys Peder Magee and Katie Ratte of FTC's Division of Privacy & Identity Protection, complimented MAPPS for mobilizing comments from its members and the broader geospatial community. Olsen called the comments "helpful” to calling attention to the expansive and undefined use of the term "precise geolocation data”. He said "what you people (geospatial professionals) do is beyond what we intended” and admitted FTC needs to "put meat on the bones” of a definition of precise geolocation data in its final report.

 
Olson said the FTC staff’s intent is to control "pinpoint unique individuals in a precise location” and the collection of information on the "location of an individual, computer or device”.


Palatiello called such a narrowing "helpful” and "reassuring”. He noted that MAPPS attempted, but was unable to define "precise geolocation data” for the purpose of FTC or Congressional intentions on privacy, but did recommend an exemption from such term. That exemption included:
  
 
1. Any information about the location and shape of, and the relationships among, geographic features, including remotely sensed and map data;

 
2. Any graphical or digital data depicting natural or manmade physical features, phenomena, or boundaries of the earth and any information related thereto, including surveys, maps, charts, remote sensing data, and images;

 
3. Collection, storage, retrieval, or dissemination of graphical or digital data to depict natural or manmade physical features, phenomena, or boundaries of the earth and any information related to such data, including any such data that comprises a survey, map, chart, geographic information system, remotely sensed image or data, or an aerial photograph by surveyors, photogrammetrists, hydrographers, geodesists, cartographers, or other such mapping and geospatial professionals; and Data originating from commercial satellite systems licensed to operate by the U.S. government, global positioning systems, geographic information systems, and airborne or terrestrial mapping equipment.


 
 
Palatiello also echoed comments by MAPPS member Kevin Pomfret, Esq (LeClairRyan, Richmond, VA) that any such definition or exemption must not preclude the development of new technologies, activities or applications or thwart the innovation that is driving the market.

 
 

Tags:  Commerce  FTC  Geolocation Data  Privacy 

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Federal Prison Industries Reform Introduced in Congress

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, December 20, 2011
A bipartisan group of House members has introduced H.R. 3634, the "Federal Prison Industries Competition in Contracting Act of 2011".

Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) offered the bill on December 12 with cosponsors that include Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Barney Frank (D-MA), and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI).

This bill is virtually identical to H.R. 2965, the bill that passed the House in 2006 by a 362-57 vote (Roll no. 443). MAPPS supported that bill. A companion bill was approved by a Senate committee, but was not enacted into law. However, other piecemeal FPI reforms have been put in place by Congress in recent years.

With unemployment continuing at dangerously high levels, 2012 may be the year Congress enacts a bill that has support from Republicans and Democrats, business and labor.

Like its predecessor, H.R. 3634 includes two provisions significant to MAPPS.

First, the bill prohibits agencies from specifying Federal Prison Industries (FPI), or its products, as a source in any Federal agency synopsis/solicitation. There have been incidents where architect-engineer (A/E) contracts have required the A/E firm to specify a FPI product, such as a modular furniture system, in its designs.

Most importantly, the bill prohibits FPI and its inmate workers from having access to a variety of geospatial information, about individual citizens’ property or critical infrastructure location. Specifically, it bans FPI from providing "a service in which an inmate worker has access to personal or financial information about individual private citizens, including information relating to such person’s real property, however described, without giving prior notice to such persons or class of persons to the greatest extent practicable; geographic data regarding the location of surface and subsurface infrastructure providing communications, water and electrical power distribution, pipelines for the distribution of natural gas, bulk petroleum products and other commodities, and other utilities; or data that is classified.” This provision would prohibit FPI from engaging in most, if not all, geospatial activities.

With regard to services, the bill eliminated FPI’s status as a preferred source. A Federal agency can only contract with FPI for services, such as GIS, CAD, scanning, digitizing, if the buying agency’s contracting officers determines FPI’s services meet the agency’s need in a number of criteria, can perform on time, and provides the service at a fair market price. This eliminates enormous advantages FPI has enjoyed in providing services. With regard to products, FPI’s previous mandatory source status is ended in favor of full and open competition.

The bill also prohibits FPI from providing services in the commercial market. Although FPI’s original 1930’s enabling law prohibited prison-made products from commercial market entry, the organization secured a legal opinion during the Clinton Administration that said since Congress mentioned products in the 1930’s, and not services, then sale of prisoner provided services must be permitted, notwithstanding that the United States did not have a service economy in the 1930s. Several state attorneys general have issued similar opinions with regard to state prisons.

Federal Prison Industries, Inc., which operates under the trade name UNICOR, is a self-supporting, wholly-owned government corporation that employs federal prison inmates. A program of the Justice Department’s Bureau of Prisons, FPI offers hundreds of products and services, including a number of data conversion activities.

A number of state prison industry operations have extensive GIS capabilities, including Colorado, Florida, and Texas, to name a few.

A recent MAPPS legislative issues poll found 51 percent of members continue to view prison industry reform legislation as a very important or somewhat important issue.

It has been reported that FPI won a contract from the Corps of Engineers to make signs. The funding came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, ARRA, commonly known as the stimulus bill. While the bill was intended to put law-abiding, unemployed Americans back to work, not to support inmates. The expenditure of Federal ARRA funds on prison industries is being investigated by Congress.

Here is a news story about the bill.

Under H.R. 3634, FPI’s Unicor, would be required to submit a detailed analysis of the impact to the private sector before entering into new product markets and would not be able to sell products commercially or internationally; the only customer could be the federal government. It also prohibits agencies from contracting with FPI in which inmates would have access to sensitive or classified information.

"This bill gives the taxpayer the greatest value for their hard-earned money by forcing federal agencies to bid for fair and reasonable prices and for products that best suit their needs. The bill preserves market access for these products or services to the hard-working men and women of our districts. This is simply one more easy, common sense way to preserve jobs and help restore economic security for America," Huizenga said.

"This legislation will protect the jobs of hard-working American taxpayers while providing valuable alternative rehabilitative opportunities to better prepare inmates for a successful return to society. It is a workable, bipartisan solution to the problem," Maloney said.

"It is time to allow for fair competition for U.S. manufacturers," Frank said.

"We should be looking to make government more efficient and cost-effective, and this bill does that. I support this legislation because it will save taxpayer money and open up the contracting process to competition by allowing businesses to bid for these contracts," Sensenbrenner said.

Other examples of the industries FPI competes in include: clothing and textiles, electronics, vehicular components and fleet management, industrial products, office furniture, electronics recycling, and services such as call center and data and document conversion.

The bill has already gathered interest from a broad coalition of business groups and has a bipartisan list of supporters in Congress from all across America. Original co-sponsors include Reps. Donald Manzullo (R-IL), Edward Royce, (R-CA), Patrick Tiberi (R-OH), and John Olver (D-MA).

In the past, studies by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found FPI products and services did not meet agency requirements, were not delivered in a timely manner, and were at times more expensive that the private sector.

Tags:  Congress  FPI  Geolocation Data  remote sensing 

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