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MAPPS urges FCC to use extreme caution

US: MAPPS – a national association of private firms in remote sensing, spatial data and GIS field in the US, urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to use extreme caution and not implement any enforcement or broad regulation that would have a harmful affect on the broad private geospatial community.

According to an Associated Press article dated November 10, 2010, the FCC is investigating Google’s activities including photographing neighbourhoods for its “Street View” mapping feature.

Earlier this year, H.R. 5777 Bill, was introduced in Congress. Had this bill (or a discussion draft that was circulated but not formally introduced) been passed by the Congress, it would have created havoc in the geospatial marketplace and community.

In a letter to P. Michele Ellison, Bureau Chief of the Enforcement Bureau of the FCC, MAPPS wrote, “Specifically, we were concerned that privacy legislation, or FCC regulation, that imprecisely uses and regulates the term ‘precise geolocation information’ would adversely impact consumers, geospatial firms and government programmes. We were particularly concerned that this term was not defined in the draft and introduced legislation.”

“The geospatial community is one of the fastest growing in the marketplace. It has been identified by the US Department of Labor as one of the “high growth” sectors of the US workforce. We are concerned that unintended consequences of future FCC regulation will stymie economic growth, job creation, and introduction of new consumer products enabled by geospatial technologies.”

Further, MAPPS mentioned in the letter, “The use of the term ‘geolocation’ or other geospatial relevant terminology that may appear in future FCC regulation could impose a significant new liability on our members. Also, it could thwart some common, legitimate and emerging uses of geospatial data for emergency response/post disaster remediation, insurance, environmental protection, E-911 & ambulance services, fleet management broadband mapping, home security, navigation, mortgage foreclosure monitoring/early warning system, and others. Moreover, activities, technologies and applications development could be deemed illegal. For example, it would be impractical, if not impossible, for our member firms to obtain prior approval or consent from individual citizens prior to acquiring or applying data such as satellite imagery, aerial photography, or parcel, address, or transportation data. A FCC regulation of this nature would effectively ban our member firms, or their clients, from important value-added, integration and application activities. Finally, any such FCC regulation could put US companies at a significant and insurmountable competitive disadvantage against foreign firms that may not be covered by that regulation, or for which enforcement would be impractical.”

Source: MAPPS