Monday, October 16, 2006

Google Maps mashup called a terrorist threat

A Google Maps mashup is at the center of debate in Seattle, Washington today after it has been deemed a "security risk" by the Seattle Fire Department. According to this Seattle Post Intelligencer article the fire department claims that the mashup (up since Oct/05) which shows the real time locations of all fire calls would make it easier for terrorists to plan an attack since it maps all locations of crews. This doesn't mean the data is no longer available though. The fire department used to provide a data source which was text based but has since switched to providing the information in an image format. The SeattlePi article gets some good perspective from programmers who state how easy it would still be to utilize the data and use it in a mashup, even using the image format. An interesting predicament and reaction to not completely remove it but rather make it harder to make use of. has removed the Google Maps functionality and currently presents visitors with the following: is currently offline, because the Seattle Fire Feed has been altered.
Why? - Digg the story here - Reddit Here

This story shows that some Google Maps mashups are being used so much that they are catching the attention of the original data source (in this case government) who didn't anticipate their information to be mapped in this way. My hope is that it doesn't prevent local governments elsewhere from making this data available in the future. In most cases these local municipal departments and groups are often resource (and creativity) strapped to come up with the type of usable mapping applications that mashup developers like John Eberly are creating for people in a given city.. in this case Seattle.

Other reaction and commentary:

EberlyGeekBlog: World's worst use of a jpeg. Blog: Google Maps as a terrorist threat?
ProgrammableWeb Blog: Mashups for Terrorists
Slashdot News

Will these other live incident mashups be stonewalled also?

Gothamist New York City
Incident Log
DC Crime
Richmond Crime

[Thanks to Dave Parsons for the tip!]
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