A US Geological Survey committee on Thursday posted new guidelines for disseminatng aerial imagery of the type Google Earth buys from vendors, according to a GovExec.com article citing the National Journal’s Technology Daily.
Apparently, the new guidelines exist in order to safeguard the public’s access to imagery, rather than to restrict it further:
The decision to draft the guidelines was made because some organizations “curtailed access without assessing the risk to security” before considering the public benefit.
That might be spin, but it just so happens that Google’s imagery recently became less censored, not more. In any case, the new guidelines “do not grant any new authority,” and mainly exist to clarify existing policy.
I went hunting for these guidelines on the USGS website, and soon discovered that this site is in serious need of an information architect to beat some sense into that sprawling mess. It’s fiendishly hard to try to find updated info when none of the component sites talk to each other.
Eventually, I did find a final draft dated June 2005, Guidelines for Providing Appropriate Access to Geospatial Data in Response to Security Concerns, a
3 16-page PDF, on the website of something called the Federal Geographic Data Committee. I’m guessing these are the guidelines that were adopted.
In these guidelines, the uniqueness of information is a factor in deciding whether imagery should be restricted. If imagery is available from open sources elsewhere, the guidelines clearly note, restricting the data is not justified.(None of this applies to non-US data providers.)