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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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Privacy Update and Request for Information

Posted By John Palatiello, Thursday, July 10, 2014

MAPPS has for some time been working on the issue of individual citizen privacy as it applies to geospatial data.

Specifically, the Federal Trade Commission, and legislation in Congress and some state legislatures, seek to regulate the collection, use, storage, and dissemination of "precise geolocation data", and in most instances, fails to define that term.

MAPPS has held sessions at its conferences, "lobbied' the issue before Congress, presented testimony before Congress, and educated the community through blogs and trade magazine articles.  

Recently, Senator John Thune (R-SD) questioned the FTC Chair on this issue.  Attached are his questions and FTC's responses.  This is significant because the extent of the government's regulatory interest is narrowed by a doctrine of  “context of the interaction” that had not previously been shared with MAPPS or others in the geospatial community (e.g. COGO or the FGDC)  exempts a large percentage (but not all) of what our members do.

The FTC challenged associations to develop a "best practices" guide for its members in its report, "Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change".
MAPPS, under the leadership of Susann Marlow (Smart Data Strategies, Franklin, TN), our Cadastre Task Force Chair and MAPPS President-Elect, we are attempting to draft such a "best practices" guide.

If your firm has a guide, policy or any other document regarding privacy and the data you collect, store, apply, or disseminate, I would be grateful if you would share it so we might consider it in the development of a MAPPS document for the good of the profession and the public we serve in the marketplace.

Please send your policy, guidance, standard, etc. to me and to Susan.

Thank you in advance for your contribution to your profession.

Tags:  Congress  Data  Federal Trade Commission  FGDC  FTC  Geospatial  John Thune  Privacy  Technology 

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MAPPS Seeks Member Input on Strategic Plan and Advocacy at Winter Conference

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Monday, January 20, 2014

MAPPS to provide forum for members to provide input on strategic plan and government affairs topics at the 2014 Winter Conference.

 Find out what will be discussed and how to provide input. MAPPS will be reaching the entire membership on these topics and the Winter Conference is meant to be the first public forum.

Tags:  advocacy  legislative affairs  MAP-21  Non-Profit  Privacy  Strategic Plan  Transportation  UAV  University Competition  Unmanned 

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Thoughts from the AUVSI Convention

Posted By John Palatiello, Thursday, August 15, 2013

This year, for the first time, MAPPS had a presence at the annual convention of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), held August 12-15 at the Washington, DC convention center.

Our participation stems from a lunch meeting MAPPS President Jeff Lower, Assistant Executive Director Nick Palatiello and I had with AUVSI President Michael Toscano, Government Affairs Manager and General Counsel Ben Gielow and State Government Affairs Manager Mario Mairena at which a liaison between our respective organizations to work collaboratively on legislation and policy issues was discussed.  As a result, Mairena spoke at the MAPPS Summer Conference in Maine in July and I was invited to speak this week at the meeting of the AUVSI government affairs committee.

MAPPS has opposed restrictions on civil, commercial use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), which are likely to soon become a commonly used platform for aerial geospatial data acquisition.  While working with AUVSI to defeat onerous anti-UAS legislation, MAPPS has also sought and in some cases succeeded in securing exemptions for mapping operations.  (See, for example, in Congress S.1057, Georgia SB 200, and Idaho SB 1134.)

A Congressional staff panel discussed UAV issues with MAPPS members on Aug. 14

MAPPS also hosted a policy luncheon at Microsoft’s beautiful technology and innovation center, just one-half block from the DC convention center.  Government Affairs Manager John Byrd assembled an outstanding panel of key Congressional staff with direct involvement with UAS-related legislation and policy.

There were a number of "hot topics” discussed during the conference. I attended a session on privacy that was broadcast by C-SPAN.  I was able to comment on the MAPPS membership and our interest in UAV and privacy issues, which can be seen at 1:23:30.

There was discussion at the MAPPS luncheon and in other venues that the word "drone” should be stricken from our vocabulary.  This may be a difficult term to overcome. However, we can paint a better picture for the practical uses of UAVs for surveying and mapping. If your firm is working with a UAS outside of the United States or with a domestic partner with a COA and  have examples of how systems are used for agriculture, oil and gas, or other applications that highlight the safe and responsible benefits of the emerging technology, MAPPS would like to know.

Another topic that attracted considerable attention is the ever-present specter of unfair competition, manifesting itself in various forms.   Several MAPPS members and others in attendance at the conference expressed frustration that certificates of authorization (COAs) are being granted to government agencies and universities while the private sector awaits the Federal Aviation Administration plan for civil, commercial COAs for UAS, as required by Congress in sections 332-336 of the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act, Public Law 112-95. There is concern that agencies and universities are acquiring UAS and utilizing them on projects that can otherwise be accomplished by the private sector. Many MAPPS members recall a Predator from the Customs and Boarder Patrol being diverted from its core mission guarding the U.S.-Canadian border to capture data on a flood in the Red River in North Dakota and Minnesota, resulting in a loss of business for private geospatial firms under contract to the Corps of Engineers, USGS, and other federal mapping agencies. Moreover, while current law and regulation permits private citizens and firms to operate UAS for a "hobby”, there is no effective enforcement to prevent abuse of such authority for commercial purposes.  Finally, several conference attendees see an emerging problem – the "dumping” of an estimated 7,500 surplus military UAS to government agencies in the U.S. resulting from the draw-down of combat missions and activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At the MAPPS luncheon, Congressional staff presented views on the competition issue, including the need to assure agency conformance with the Economy Act and the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) that regulate agencies’ authority to perform services for other agencies.

In preparation for the AUVSI Government Affairs Committee meeting, John Byrd reminded me the first presentation on UAS at a MAPPS meeting was at the Winter Conference in Palm Springs, California in 2008.  Our association has continuously kept the membership appraised of UAS policy, technology and opportunities for more than five years.  
It goes to show that "in an economy where you are counting every dollar, it is good to know you can count on MAPPS” is not just a slogan, it is a fact.

Tags:  Drones  Economy  FAR  Government Competition  Privacy  UAV 

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MAPPS to Host Special Washington Policy Lunch to Address UAVs, August 14

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Updated: Friday, August 9, 2013



MAPPS will host a special roundtable discussion of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) issues featuring key Congressional staff on Wednesday, August 14.

In just the last week, two certificates of authorization (COAs) were awarded for commercial use and panelists at the MAPPS 2013 Summer Conference were optimistic that a small class of UAVs could receive special approval by the end of 2013. MAPPS is working to continue to keep members and the community up to date with legislative and regulatory information to advance the use of the technology in the commercial market.

This luncheon will take place at Noon at Microsoft Innovation & Policy Center, 901 K Street, NW, Suite 1100 Washington, DC 20001 and coincides with the annual conference and exhibition of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) to be held at the Washington, DC Convention Center. MAPPS has developed a relationship with AUVSI to educate lawmakers at the Federal and state level on the benefits of UAV implementation.

This luncheon will provide attendees an opportunity to hear and learn about policies, legislation and other governmental actions affecting commercial certificates of authorization for UAVs, which can become a popular platform for acquisition of imagery and other geospatial source data. Engage in a discussion of timely topics on the timing, policies and issues affecting UAVs.

MAPPS has confirmed a bipartisian panel of Capitol Hill staff as speakers:

Blas Nunez-Neto, Senior Professional Staff Member (Majority) at Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC). Mr. Nunez-Neto will discuss HSGAC Oversight of UAV-UAS Operations along the Border (CBP/DHS). He was formerly an analyst in Domestic Security, Criminal Justice, and Immigration for the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

Joan V. O'Hara, Deputy Chief Counsel (Majority) for the House Committee on Homeland Security. Ms. O'Hara will cover Customs and Border Patrol (CBP)/DHS operation of UAVs along the borders, how DHS is interacting with FAA for certificates of authorization (COAs), and prospects for legislative language covering UAVs in the DHS Reauthorization and Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Mitchell "Mitch” Kominsky, Counsel (Majority), House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Mr. Kominsky will cover oversight plans by Chairman Darrell Issa (CA) for UAV technology and applications.

Tim Tarpley, Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director, Rep. Ted Poe (TX). Mr. Tarpley will discuss Rep. Poe's sponsorship of H.R. 637, the "Preserving American Privacy Act of 2013".

Additional speakers may be added.

This event is open to MAPPS members, government partners, and guests. MAPPS members are encouraged to invite principals of private sector geospatial firms to attend the lunch.

Registration for the AUVSI conference is not required to attend the lunch.

The Microsoft Innovation & Policy Center is located one-half block west of the Washington, DC convention center.

Click here, to register for the lunch.

Tags:  Customs and Border Patrol  DHS  FAA  Privacy  UAV 

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MAPPS President Highlights Accomplishments Over the Past Year

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Friday, August 2, 2013
Updated: Thursday, August 1, 2013
MAPPS President Highlights Accomplishments Over the Past Year

At the MAPPS Membership Annual Business Meeting held Tuesday, July 23, 2013 in Rockport, Maine, departing MAPPS president Dick McDonald, CP, PLS (T3 Global Strategies, Bridgeville, PA) provided his final report to the membership. Below are some of his remarks providing the accomplishments of the association over the last year:

"It has been a tradition at these meetings that the President of MAPPS stands before the membership and announces a list of significant accomplishments of this organization.
This year is no exception.
Since we last met for an annual meeting in Snowmass, Colorado last July, the following are just a few of MAPPS’ achievements –
  • The Department of Homeland Security finally … finally … awarded its contracts for imagery and geospatial services for emergency response.  This QBS, multiple award ID/IQ contract is the result of more than 10 years of effort by MAPPS. That contract was MAPPS idea and it is the result of a decade of tenacity and advocacy by MAPPS;

  • I had the privilege of testifying before a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on the Hydrographic Services Improvement Act and NOAA geospatial programs;

  • We won approval of a Defense Department land inventory provision in the Defense Authorization bill currently before Congress;

  • We met with the staff of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor in Virginia, and Cabinet members, to promote greater use of geospatial services and reliance on the private sector;

  • In other activities at the state level, we successfully battled competition from DOTs, dealt with sales tax issues and successfully placed members on state geospatial coordination councils to insure the private sector was represented, and we made progress on a state council bill in Pennsylvania;

  • We launched a state chapter in Alabama, and began organizing in Florida.  Additionally, our Maryland chapter is now up and running;

  • MAPPS recognized firms’ projects in the sixth annual Excellence Awards competition and reception in November. And our seventh competition is now on, with entries due by September 20.  So get your best projects together and please submit.  This is so important to promoting our profession, demonstrating the capabilities and capacity of the private sector, and highlighting how we as a community contribute to the quality of life in our Nation.  Please, enter a project;

  • MAPPS worked with Congress to develop a GAO study of Federal geospatial coordination to identify duplication and redundancies in agencies that has received repeated news media attention;

  • We assisted our brethren in land surveying in opposition to the Labor Department’s classification of survey technicians as "laborers and mechanics”, subject to the Davis-Bacon Act;

  • It is MAPPS that is leading the fight in Washington against insourcing and government competition, to provide more opportunity for the private sector; 

  • We had a successful Joint Conference with ASPRS in Tampa, Florida and an excellent Winter Meeting in Miami, Florida.  Once again, MAPPS charged Capitol Hill in another very productive Federal Programs Conference in Washington, DC;

  • We’ve had the FLAIR Act, Map It Once Act, Digital Coast Act, Prison Industry Reform bill, and the Freedom from Government Competition Act introduced in Congress;

  • We conducted a LIDAR capacity analysis for USGS and led an effort supported by several other organizations in support for funding of the USGS 3DEP program in Congress;

  • MAPPS led an effort to get all the members of COGO, the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations, to unanimously support a resolution on the importance of geospatial data to our society and proclaiming that privacy restrictions should not be a concern and should not apply to our profession’s activities;

  • We’ve been a leader in getting lawmakers in Congress and State Legislatures to recognize that aerial imagery for mapping from UAVs benefits the public and should NOT be part of restrictions on future UAV use;

  • We conducted a Salary Survey, which will be reported later this week, and two Economic Surveys;

  • We continue to have a successful MAPPS PAC and set a record for members’ contributions, and PAC contributions to candidates in the 2012 election. We had an outstanding MAPPS PAC dinner in Washington in March with Senator Johnson of Wisconsin and Congressman Massie of Kentucky.  I want to thank all the members who contributed and call on everyone to give something to the PAC.  We have a more pro-free enterprise U.S. House of Representatives as a result of the generosity of those who contributed. I encourage you all to make a personal contribution today, whether it is for $50, $100, $200 or $1,000 … the legal limit is $5,000 (actually $10,000 for husband and wife);

  • We did good … we performed community service with our Bike Build to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Miami at our Winter Meeting.  The look on those kids’ faces was priceless and heartwarming.

    And that is just in the past 12 months.  
I thank the membership for its support and participation.  I urge your continued involvement and commitment to MAPPS.  As we’ve often said, ‘in an economy where you are counting every dollar, it’s good to know you can count on MAPPS’.”

Tags:  Economy  FLAIR  Geospatial  MIO-UIMT  Privacy  UAV 

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A status update on UAVs and Privacy

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, June 12, 2013

John Palatiello, MAPPS Executive Director, provided a recorded presentation for The Survey Association (TSA), MAPPS counter part in the United Kingdom. The presentation provides an overview on policies and legislation impacting unmanned aerial vehicles in the United States. The presentation also provides an overview of privacy regulations that are a concern to the geospatial community in the U.S. 

Want to learn more? MAPPS will hold more in-depth sessions on UAV regulations and sensors for surveying and mapping, as well as a session on privacy during the MAPPS Summer Conference to be held July 22-26, 2013 in Rockport, Maine. Register today to attend!

Is your firm not yet a member of MAPPS?

MAPPS is offering a special membership promotion for firms that are not current members. The association invites principals of firms to attend the Summer Conference at the non-member rate. If the firm joins MAPPS prior to the end of the conference on July 26, 2013, the firm will be credited with the difference between the member and non-member rate. That is a 56% savings. The reimbursement will be credited toward the firm's 2013 membership dues in MAPPS. Register today!

Tags:  Privacy  UAV 

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Top Ten Reasons to Attend the MAPPS Winter Meeting - #6, Professional Practice Issues

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, December 19, 2012


The laws of supply and demand are not the only ones your firm has to live by.

Congress and state legislatures regularly enact new laws affecting professional geospatial practices.

At the MAPPS Winter Meeting, January 27 - 31, 2013 at the Trump International Hotel in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, laws affecting your firm will be presented.
  • Ethics - many states now define a broad definition of geospatial activities as the practice of surveying, requiring a license and compliance with a code of ethics. Whether or not you are a licensed practitioner, you are a professional held to a higher standard of ethical behavior than those in an "industry". Many states require annual ethics training. This session will provide you current information on ethics in the profession.

  • Privacy - Congress, the Federal Trade Commission, State Legislatures and the Courts are imposing new standards for protection of individual citizen privacy. Whether it is UAS, geolocation data, parcel or address information or aerial photography, you could be affected by this new regulatory scheme. Learn what is happening and what you can do about it.

  • Legislative Roundtable - MAPPS has the most active and effective public policy program in the geospatial community. A "roundtable" session will give you an opportunity to provide first-hand input into the MAPPS agenda for Congress and the Obama Administration for 2013.

P.S. MAPPS is conducting a legislative survey which has been sent to one key principal in each MAPPS member firm. The deadline to provide input on legislation that is important to your firm is this Friday, December 21.

To ensure you receive the special MAPPS conference rate be sure to make your reservations at the Trump International Resort before January 4. The hotel is easily accessible from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) and Miami International Airport (MIA).

Time is running out to receive the Regular Registration Rate, Deadline December 29!

Special Non-Member Offer
Attend the MAPPS meeting as a non-member*, if your firm joins by the end of the conference on January 31 the difference between the non-member and member rate will be credited to your firms membership! Register for the conference before December 29 and you could receive a $770 credit! Register for the conference here.

*Membership in MAPPS is by firm not by individual unless an individual is an independent consultant. For more information about MAPPS membership, click here.
Top 10 Reasons:


Tags:  Congress  Ethics  Privacy  State Legislation  State License 

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MAPPS Tracks State Capitals

Posted By John "JB" Byrd, Friday, December 14, 2012

Members of MAPPS enjoy an extraordinary benefit that keeps them abreast of legislation in all 50 state legislatures that affect their business.

Since 1999, MAPPS has engaged the firm MultiState Associates, Inc. ( to monitor legislation in every State House. This early warning system provides private geospatial firms an ability to know about every bill introduced that could pose an opportunity or threat to their professional practice.

Using web-based technology and human intelligence in every state capitol, Multistate can identify any legislation with key words important to the MAPPS membership, such as mapping, surveying, photogrammetry, geospatial, geographic system, etc.

Once a bill has been introduced, a notice is sent to MAPPS staff, including a link to the text of the legislation and the key word. The MAPPS staff analyzes the legislation to determine its relevance to the membership. Notice of the bill’s introduction is often sent to key MAPPS member firm principals in that state. Additionally, bills are listed in Capitol Coverage, an electronic newsletter published twice a month, an exclusive benefit to MAPPS members that highlights the aforementioned state legislation, Federal legislation, procurement opportunities and relevant geospatial news.

Recently, the MAPPS-MultiState Program worked to perfection. A bill in the New Hampshire state House of Representatives was pre-filed for the 2013 session. While the text of the bill is not yet available, the short title was a warning bell, "prohibiting images of a person's residence to be taken from the air.” Upon being notified of this potentially harmful legislation, MAPPS staff contacted the bill’s sponsor. The state representative promptly responded, indicating the bill had not yet been drafted and that it was not intended to impact the legitimate business of aerial surveying, photogrammetry or remote sensing. Lines of communication between MAPPS and the state representative are now open and we are now in discussions on drafting a bill that accomplishes both our objectives.

In some cases, when MultiState informs MAPPS that a hearing on an important bill is scheduled, MAPPS staff will alert members in that state in an effort to deploy a firm principal to the capitol to testify. When a bill to include photogrammetry as the practice of land surveying, without a grandfather provision for experienced and qualified practicing photogrammetrists, was introduced in South Dakota several years ago, a principal of Horizons, Inc. (Rapid City, SD) was alerted, drove to the state capital of Pierre, and told lawmakers the bill would legislate him out of business. The bill was immediately amended to remove all references to photogrammetry. When a similar proposal was offered in South Carolina, MAPPS engaged Multistate to retain a lobbyist who was successful in immediately putting the brakes on the bill until an equitable grandfather provision could be added. Today, as a result of the MAPPS intervention, dozens of photogrammetrists are licensed to practice in South Carolina.

With the growth of state chapters in MAPPS, the Multistate system is an added arrow in the association’s quiver to keep members alert, aware and engaged in state level activities. Political intelligence is important to successful business, and MAPPS helps its members know how the landscape may be changing in their state.

In an economy where you are counting every dollar, it is good to know you can count on MAPPS.

Tags:  Aerial  Geospatial  Privacy  State Legislation  State License 

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Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO) Appeals FTC Misuse of "Precise Geolocation Data" in Privacy Report

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Monday, July 30, 2012
The Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO) has asked Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jonathan Leibowitz to address the concerns of the geospatial community in its privacy report. 

In March 2012, the FTC released a report, "Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change" providing recommended actions for business and policy makers to protect consumers' private information.

In the letter to the FTC, COGO points out that during the comment period, the FTC had assured the geospatial community that the intent of the report was not to cover the ordinary activities of the geospatial community. The FTC had indicated that a definition of the term "precise geolocation data" or an exception for the legal, legitimate and ordinary activities in the professional geospatial practice would be included in the Commission's final report.

"The Coalition has been concerned from the start that the professional services provided through surveying, mapping and geospatial data collection would be harmed with the impractical requirement of a consumer choice mechanism," said Dr. Carolyn Merry, chair of the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering at The Ohio State University and COGO Chair.

COGO has expressed its concern that footnote 187 in the final report does not adequately address the activities of the geospatial community. The coalition of 11 geospatial associations said the wording in the footnote is not as comprehensive as the FTC had led COGO and the community to believe it would be. In its letter to Leibowitz, COGO urged the FTC to modify text within the body of the report to clarify the issue.

COGO has suggested revisions to the report such that the requirement for individual consumer approval or "affirmative express consent" prior to the collection, sharing or use of "precise geolocation data" be further clarified and eliminated.

"The revisions, additions and clarifications COGO has suggested would provide clarity with respect to parcels and addresses," said Jeff Lovin (Woolpert, Inc., Dayton, OH), MAPPS Delegate to COGO, which originated the letter. "One footnote in a 122-page report does not go far enough to protect areas of professional services that have not been identified as a problem or pose any privacy concern to citizens." The letter can be viewed here

About COGO


Formed in 2008, the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO) ( is a coalition of 11 voting member and four advisory member national professional societies, trade associations, and membership organizations in the geospatial field, representing more than 30,000 individual producers and users of geospatial data and technology. The coalition's Member Organizations are:


American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM)

American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS)

Geographic Information Systems Certification Institute (GISCI)

Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS)

United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF)

University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS)

Association of American Geographers (AAG)

Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CaGIS)

International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO)

National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC)

Urban Regional Information Systems Association (URISA)


Associate Members:


National Association of Counties (NACo)
National Emergency Number Association (NENA)
Western Governors Association (WGA)
American Planning Association (APA)



To view the COGO letter, go to:

Tags:  COGO  FTC  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: 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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