July 21, 2015 (Reston, VA) - MAPPS, the national association of private sector geospatial firms, released a "Best Practices Guideline" for firms' handling of geospatial data to protect individual citizen privacy.
In an effort to establish best practices, principles and a self-regulatory framework for its member firms, a MAPPS task force led by MAPPS President Susan Marlow (Stantec, Nashville, TN) drafted the guideline.
The guideline was developed in response to a March 2012 report of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), report Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change, in which "the Commission calls on individual companies, trade associations, and self-regulatory bodies to adopt the principles contained in the final privacy framework."
The FTC sought to protect the privacy of individual citizens' "sensitive" data, including "precise geolocation data" that included, for example, an address. However, FTC did not define the term "precise geolocation data" and recommended that before any firm could collect, store, or use such data, it would be required to "provide prominent disclosures and obtain affirmative express consent before using consumer data in a materially different manner than claimed when the data was collected ..."
The MAPPS guideline provides assistance to firms when determining when it should obtain individual consent for collection of geospatial data and when it is not needed to protect privacy. It was released at the association's annual conference held last week in Sunriver, Oregon.
"Recent legislative and regulatory efforts to protect consumers and citizens in the name of privacy have cast a wide net, creating unintended consequences for mapping and geospatial firms," said John Palatiello, MAPPS Executive Director. "Geospatial data is derived from images and data collected from a variety of airborne and space borne platforms, as well as other mobile and terrestrial-based acquisition systems. This imagery and data is collected, utilized and applied in geographic information systems (GIS) by companies operating within the safeguards, rights and framework established by the Fourth and Fourteenth amendments to the Constitution of the United States, and with government often the client. This document helps engage in lawful, ethical and professional practice that is respectful of individual citizens."
Formed in 1982, MAPPS is the only national association exclusively comprised of private firms in the remote sensing, spatial data and geographic information systems field in the United States. The MAPPS membership spans the entire spectrum of the geospatial community, including Member Firms engaged in satellite and airborne remote sensing, surveying, photogrammetry, aerial photography, LIDAR, hydrography, bathymetry, charting, aerial and satellite image processing, GPS, and GIS data collection and conversion services. MAPPS also includes Associate Member Firms, which are companies that provide hardware, software, products and services to the geospatial profession in the United States and other firms from around the world.