Canadian Privacy Commissioner Discovers Google Street View

And she does not like what she sees.

Apparently the problem is not the US-style “expectation of privacy” – which is hard to have when walking down a public sidewalk – but the Canadian statutory concept of “personal information”, which has specific protection under our privacy legislation:

Stoddart doesn’t have a problem with [Google satellite maps]. However, she warned that high-resolution pictures such as those available on Street View could contravene the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, which came into effect on Jan. 1, 2004.

“Our Office considers images of individuals that are sufficiently clear to allow an individual to be identified to be personal information within the meaning of PIPEDA,” Stoddart writes.

As usual with internet curfuffles, the problem seems not to be the infraction per se, but the scale and visibility of it. The cameras on my bank machine are collecting and storing recognizable images of me all the time without my consent (my personal information!) but it is a quiet and invisible process, and does not end in a public distribution step.

I am trying to think of any other situation where my identifiable image might be captured and then published without my consent, but so far am drawing a blank. (Oh, here’s one, when I walk home I end up in numerous people’s tourist shots of the BC Legislature and I am sure some of those people publish to Flickr – which brings us back to the scale and systematic nature of Street View.)

FOSS4G Conference Program

The conference program has been coming together, piece by piece, over the past several months. Workshops and labs, keynote speaker, presentations, lightning talks, and demonstrations. Well, it is all done now, and off to the printer for conversion to dead-tree format. It’s also online in PDF format.

FOSS4G 2007

Apart from the pretty pictures and nice formatting, the content has already been available for a while:

But it’s nice to have it all in a handy book now! See you all in two weeks!

Bad Software Causes Global Warming

This Friday, I hopped up from my computer, told it to shutdown, turned off my monitor and hurried home.

This morning, I got in, turned on my monitor and … my computer was already on. Huh? It had never shut down in the first place, because Acrobat Reader doesn’t respect Windows telling it to shut down, it only listens to you, the user. So my Acrobat spent the weekend waiting for me to confirm that yes, I really wanted it to shut down!

I wonder how many tonnes should be booked to Adobe for this particular design infraction.

FOSS4G Update

By my count, it’s just 38 days until FOSS4G! Scary thought, the amount of logistics involved.


The opening plenary session is now set, with some great keynoters (Geoff Zeiss, Autodesk; Tyler Mitchell, OSGeo; Peter Rushforth, GeoConnections) and a fabulous feature speaker, Damian Conway.

Also, a full line-up of 5-minute lightning talks, to get the blood circulating! Peter Batty, Raj Singh, Schuyler Earle, Chris Schmidt, and more!

We had our update from the conference organizer yesterday, and the hotel blocks are almost sold out! Make your travel plans now, otherwise you will be paying higher prices for accommodations. The hotels are chomping at the bit to take away our block rooms and sell them for more on the open market — snap them up!

Sol Katz Award

I never met or corresponded with Sol Katz, but I’ve been puttering around the GIS world long enough to have had cause to use the tools he made available for working with geospatial data in the 1990s.

Sol was an early pioneer of free geospatial software and left behind a large body of work in the form of applications, format specifications, and utilities while at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. This early software archive provided both source code and applications freely available to the community. Sol was also a frequent contributor to many geospatial list servers, providing much guidance to the geospatial community at large. Sol unfortunately passed away in 1999 from Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, but his legacy lives on in the open source world, and the open source spirit of which he was a pioneer.

The Sol Katz Award is given annual to an individual who has demonstrated leadership in the open source geo-spatial community. The Call for Nominations is open right now. If you know someone who embodies the Spirit of Sol, place them in consideration!