11
What Are the Societal Implications of Citizen Mapping and Mapping Citizens?

The popularity of Web mapping sites such as Google Maps, Google Earth, and Microsoft Virtual Earth has exploded in recent years. Particularly in wealthier parts of the world, these sites have become a central part of daily life (the “next utility”) as they are used to navigate to places of work, pleasure, and commerce, and to allow citizens to increase their knowledge of the world. Not only do people want to receive information from these sites; they increasingly want to share it as well. Sites, such as Wikimapia.org, OpenStreetMap.org, MapAction.org, and Flickr.com are empowering millions of citizens to create a global patchwork of geographical information. This information is already serving society in many ways—assisting in local tourism and community planning, disaster response (e.g., citizen maps of Southern California fires), humanitarian aid, habitat restoration, public health monitoring, and personal assessments of environmental impacts. This citizen mapping “workforce” is largely untrained, under no authority, and the mapping is often done for no obvious reward (Goodchild, 2007).

Goodchild (2007) terms this recent phenomenon “volunteered geographic information” (VGI), wherein a private citizen participates in the creation, assembly, and dissemination of geographical information on the Web. The information is “volunteered” primarily by adding a geographical identifier (known also as a geotag) to a Wikipedia article, photograph, or video, or by adding one’s own geographical data to an interactive, Web-based map, often by marking locations of certain features that are of importance, places where various events have occurred, or places where an individual has been or would like to go (Figure 11.1). For those with more advanced computing skills, Google Earth and other virtual globes are providing ways for citizen mappers (known also as neogeographers) to develop their own mapping applications, such as geoGreeting, which create greeting messages in Google Maps spelled out in satellite images of real buildings from all over the world that happen to be shaped as letters when viewed from above. VGI can be a boon, for example, to international development and humanitarian relief organizations, which can supply these organizations with the most up-to-date detailed data (Figure 11.2).

The power of such Web sites to increase the efficiency, pleasure, and safety of our lives is becoming increasingly apparent. However, the issue of individual privacy has arisen just as quickly as the technologies themselves. Privacy is about limiting access to facts about an individual, including gender, marital status, income, and social security number, in order to protect against intrusion, appropriation, or breach of confidence. The issue of privacy is heightened when locational information is involved. Most people do not expect ultimate privacy while at their places of work, but they expect it in their homes. Location can also present privacy concerns in a dynamic sense, both directly (“I don’t want people to know my current location in space and time”) and indirectly (“I don’t want certain things associated with me because of my current location in space and time, such as my presence at an adult video store”) (Curry, 1998; Armstrong and Ruggles, 2005; Bertino et al., 2008).



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11 What Are the Societal Implications of Citizen Mapping and Mapping Citizens? T he popularity of Web mapping sites such as vidual has been or would like to go (Figure 11.1). For Google Maps, Google Earth, and Microsoft those with more advanced computing skills, Google Virtual Earth has exploded in recent years. Par- Earth and other virtual globes are providing ways ticularly in wealthier parts of the world, these sites have for citizen mappers (known also as neogeographers) t o develop their own mapping applications, such become a central part of daily life (the “next utility”) as as geoGreeting, which create greeting messages in they are used to navigate to places of work, pleasure, Google Maps spelled out in satellite images of real and commerce, and to allow citizens to increase their buildings from all over the world that happen to be knowledge of the world. Not only do people want to shaped as letters when viewed from above. VGI can receive information from these sites; they increasingly be a boon, for example, to international development want to share it as well. Sites, such as Wikimapia.org, and humanitarian relief organizations, which can OpenStreetMap.org, MapAction.org, and Flickr.com supply these organizations with the most up-to-date are empowering millions of citizens to create a global detailed data (Figure 11.2). patchwork of geographical information. This informa- The power of such Web sites to increase the effi- tion is already serving society in many ways—assisting ciency, pleasure, and safety of our lives is becoming in local tourism and community planning, disaster re- increasingly apparent. However, the issue of individual sponse (e.g., citizen maps of Southern California fires), privacy has arisen just as quickly as the technologies humanitarian aid, habitat restoration, public health themselves. Privacy is about limiting access to facts monitoring, and personal assessments of environmental about an individual, including gender, marital status, impacts. This citizen mapping “workforce” is largely income, and social security number, in order to pro- untrained, under no authority, and the mapping is often tect against intrusion, appropriation, or breach of done for no obvious reward (Goodchild, 2007). confidence. The issue of privacy is heightened when Goodchild (2007) terms this recent phenomenon locational information is involved. Most people do “volunteered geographic information” (VGI), wherein not expect ultimate privacy while at their places of a private citizen participates in the creation, assembly, work, but they expect it in their homes. Location can and dissemination of geographical information on also present privacy concerns in a dynamic sense, both the Web. The information is “volunteered” primarily directly (“I don’t want people to know my current by adding a geographical identifier (known also as a geotag) to a Wikipedia article, photograph, or video, location in space and time”) and indirectly (“I don’t or by adding one’s own geographical data to an inter- want certain things associated with me because of my active, Web-based map, often by marking locations of current location in space and time, such as my presence certain features that are of importance, places where at an adult video store”) (Curry, 1998; Armstrong and various events have occurred, or places where an indi- Ruggles, 2005; Bertino et al., 2008). 05

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06 UNDERSTANDING THE CHANGING PLANET FIGURE 11.1 Example of a VGI project from the University of California, Los Angeles Center for Embedded Networked Sensing, where private citizens use their mobile phones to explore and share the impact of the local environment on their lives and vice versa (e.g., Cuff et al., 2008). The map and graphs show demonstration outputs from the Personal Environmental Impact Report, an online service that interacts with a user’s mobile phone to provide an environmental “scorecard” that tracks possible exposure to carbon emis­ sions, fast food, and particulates, as well as impact on sensitive sites throughout the Los Angeles metropolitan area. In this sense, the citizens themselves become the environmental sensors. The service is accompanied by a privacy policy for participants that explains the risks of collecting and sharing location information and how data and information are being controlled. SOURCE: peir.cens.ucla. edu (accessed January 20, 2010).

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0 VOLUNTEERED GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION FIGURE 11.2 The map on the left shows part of the street network in Mogadishu, Somalia, available in Google Earth (top) and Microsoft Virtual Earth (bottom). The map on the right showing the same region, but with streets supplied by VGI in OpenStreetMap. org, provides information of considerable use to international development and humanitarian relief organizations. SOURCE: www. developmentseed.org/tags/mapping (accessed January 20, 2010). The role oF The geograPhical “smartphones,” personal digital assistants or PDAs scieNces (i.e., handheld computers), digital cameras, and vehicle navigation systems. These devices are equipped with Most citizen mapping involves the use of the Internet. ready-made maps and Global Positioning System re- Some view the Internet as a technology that is abol- ceivers, further empowered by a location-based service ishing the significance of geographical location and (LBS). LBS is an information service provided by a distance (e.g., Cairncross, 1997), but there is much device that knows where it is and then uses that knowl- evidence to the contrary. As noted in The Economist edge to select, transform, and modify the information (2003): that it returns to the user. Hence the device can supply driving or walking directions to businesses, restau- It was naive to imagine that the global reach of the Internet would make geography irrelevant. rants, and automated teller machines; find other users Wireline and wireless technologies have bound in close proximity; or even send alerts, such as when the virtual and physical worlds closer than ever. . . . a user is approaching a traffic jam or accident. Peter Actually, geography is far from dead. Although it Batty (a former chief technology officer of two leading is often helpful to think of the Internet as a parallel geographic information system [GIS] companies) has digital universe, or an omnipresent “cloud,” its users recently introduced whereyougonnabe.com, which takes live in the real world where limitations of geography still apply. And these limitations extend online. this kind of networking one step further by allowing Finding information relevant to a particular place, users to tell their friends where and when they plan to or the location associated with a specific piece of be located in the future. information, is not always easy. There is growing concern that the proliferation of It follows that geographical context is relevant to technologies and the production of detailed, micro- any discussion of the nature and implications of VGI level spatial data are outpacing our ability to protect and its enabling technologies. VGI is often made information about individuals. The same techniques possible through the use of geographically enabled that allow Web users to create mashups by linking infor-

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0 UNDERSTANDING THE CHANGING PLANET mation around common geographical locations also BOX 11.1 allow government agencies to build massive databases Tracking Residents in Bath, England on individuals and their behaviors (e.g., NRC, 2008a) and make it possible for the private sector to keep track ‘There’s a storm brewing in [the English town of] Bath. Today’s of a wealth of personal information. The practitioners Guardian newspaper reports that residents are being tracked with- of the emerging field of “collective intelligence” ac- out their knowledge. The tracking is part of a University of Bath knowledge that, if misused, locational information on project that’s called Cityware [a research collaboration of computer individuals “could create an Orwellian future on a level scientists and psychologists]. It’s designed to study how people move around cities. Here’s how it works. Cityware researchers have Big Brother could only dream of ” (Markoff, 2008). The installed scanners at secret locations around Bath. Those scan- geographical sciences are of central importance to this ners capture bluetooth radio signals. Bluetooth is a short-range challenge because, as noted by the NRC Committee wireless technology. It’s found in mobile phones, laptops, even on Confidentiality Issues Arising from the Integration digital cameras. Now if somebody in Bath moves by a scanner with of Remotely Sensed and Self-Identifying Data (NRC, his or her bluetooth device turned on, then Cityware can pinpoint 2007b): “precise information about spatial location is that person’s whereabouts. The results are stored in a database. Researchers and city officials contend that they cannot identify almost perfectly identifying: if one knows where some- anyone personally from the data collected, but the scanners don’t let one lives, one is likely to know the person’s identity.” Bluetooth users KNOW that they are being watched, and some have The social issues raised by these tools are more urgent called ‘foul. . . .’ [transcripted from the radio broadcast Public Radio today than two decades ago, and there is every indica- International’s The World, as broadcast on July 21, 2008, available tion that the urgency will grow in the future. also at www.theworld.org/?q=node/19600]. The geographical sciences are central to under- The researchers of this study maintain that the purpose of Cityware is not to track individuals, but to study the aggregate standing the nature and implication of new forms behavior of city dwellers as a whole, while also allowing those of data acquisition. Geographical scientists have the individuals to find their way around the city, participate in interactive background and training to bring to bear language, citywide games and cultural activities, and access a host of informa- guiding principles, and theoretical constructs that are tion services while working, socializing, or relaxing (Lewis, 2008). relevant to locational and mapping technologies. They The human rights “watchdog” group Privacy International has offer research methods that can facilitate the explora- countered that “it would not take much adjustment to make this [Cityware] system an ubiquitous surveillance infrastructure over tion, analysis, synthesis, and presentation of data about which we have no control” (Lewis, 2008). citizen mapping activities and their social implications. The concern of geographical scientists with place and context is particularly important, as the study of citizen mapping and locational privacy is not just about acquir- ing and using locational data. It is about understanding the personal privacy rights of individuals. Box 11.1 how data are used and viewed in particular places, and describes one present-day example. The following re- by particular communities. Geographical scientists search questions provide examples of issues that would wonder not only about the “where” of the present, but be particularly productive to investigate. the implications of “where” for the future, and how spatial behaviors will change under the circumstances research suBQuesTioNs of traffic congestion, crisis (emergency evacuation from natural disaster, terrorist attack; e.g., Torrens, 2007), What are the characteristics of the producers of or even mass euphoria (musical concerts or a political Vgi and how should we evaluate the content and rally). Bringing these concerns to bear on citizen map- quality of what they have produced? ping initiatives and locational data collection is essen- tial to the effort to understand the social implications Producers of VGI are themselves subjects of much of geographical practices. needed research (e.g., who volunteers and why, what are The responsibility of the geographical sciences to their geographical and social characteristics, what confront this issue becomes clear when one considers kind of locational information are they interested in that geographical research itself may infringe upon volunteering?). Initial studies have shown that people

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0 VOLUNTEERED GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION volunteer information in the belief that it will be open, but also volunteered geographical analysis. Given exist- accessible, and free, and may even be of significant ing perspectives and methods, the geographical sciences help. Some are also motivated by self-promotion, the could develop rubrics to assess and evaluate the quality desire to fill in gaps in data, or merely to connect easily of VGI (i.e., both the validity and accuracy of VGIs, as to friends, relatives, and colleagues (Goodchild, 2008). well as the quality of any metadata) and the accuracy Geographical methods for exploration, analysis, syn- of resulting maps. For example, Flanagin and Metzger thesis, and classification of spatial data (e.g., multiple- (2008) discuss (1) emerging analyses and rubrics for criteria evaluation methods in the context of decision- geographical training and education of novices by support systems as developed by Jankowski et al. experts; (2) assessment of the notoriety of systems [2008], as well as various landscape visualization tech- (such as the level of trust users now have in Wikipedia, niques and participatory three-dimensional models) are Google Earth, Citizendium, etc.); and (3) development needed to shed light on who is involved in VGI and of algorithms that reveal (via IP address) the source what they are doing. A study that mapped participation of content or compute the “reputation” of an author’s and correlated it with multiple socioeconomic variables entry as measured by its longevity. Researchers could might, for example, reveal that most VGI in a certain investigate the thematic limits of VGI (i.e., the kinds region comes from upscale residential neighborhoods, of geographical information that is best acquired in this and could further understanding of the social, political, way, rather than by scholars or government authorities) and technological factors that affect how geographical and its ethics (what protections are needed for indi- data are developed, accessed, and interpreted (Elwood, vidual privacy, and the limits on what people should 2007). Research is needed to define the limits of VGI in be able to report about others?). this context and to shed light on the social psychology of the producers of VGI. in what ways does participation in Vgi have the Institutional review boards (IRBs) have emerged unintended effect of increasing the digital divide? in recent years to protect the rights of human subjects Discussions of neogeography and of what can be in research projects, and yet there is wide variability achieved today by citizen mappers rarely include the in their capacity to apply and disseminate confidential issue of the digital divide—the sharp contrast between research (Lane, 2003). Many IRBs are quite conserva- those with effective access to digital technology and tive vis-à-vis locational privacy, making it difficult for those with limited or no access. Although most people researchers to work with tracking data. This orienta- in high-income countries are used to the power of tion could be a major impediment to useful research. Google Earth, the vast majority of the world’s citi- Sieber (2004) has suggested some innovative ways in zens have no access to either the Internet or personal which IRBs could improve researchers’ understanding computers. Moreover the divide is growing, as certain of confidentiality issues, including how best to inter- groups acquire more and more technology and others pret, adapt, and apply nondisclosure techniques, but continue with nothing. Since the proliferation of VGI the challenge of developing ways to contront locational could exacerbate the digital divide, it is important privacy issues remains (NRC, 2007b). to understand better whether, and where, this might Turning to the evaluation of content and quality, happen (e.g., in contrast to Figure 11.2, some parts of VGI has been termed asserted information, to contrast the world still don’t yet “show up” because people there it with the authority of traditional sources. While map- cannot contribute information). ping agencies have developed elaborate mechanisms In the free-for-all atmosphere of the Internet, it for quality control and assessment, the quality of VGI is easy to forget the impediments to accessing geo- remains very much an open research issue (although graphical data and tools. GIS software can be expen- in other areas of volunteered information, such as sive and far beyond the resources of many. In other Wikipedia, some preliminary research results are now cases, governments actively seek to keep geographical available, e.g., Read, 2006). Researchers working on technologies out of the reach of groups of people. We this topic need to develop ways for educated citizens to need to understand how spatial knowledge is shaped produce not only volunteered geographical information

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0 UNDERSTANDING THE CHANGING PLANET by identity, power, and socioeconomic status, and how and Internet protocols already at play within a home spatial data handling is socially and politically medi- network of PCs, printers, phones, TVs, and networked ated (Harvey et al., 2005). Research in this vein will stereos. However, as highlighted by Claburn (2008), help us understand how we need to alter community such systems also raise privacy issues. How will da- planning paradigms and decision-making practices in tasets be protected? Who will have access to them? order to more fully realize the potential of VGI, without And what will prevent them from being stolen or even exacerbating the digital divide. subpoenaed? These questions point to the need for Sui’s (2008) call for a focus on equity and privacy in research into how new forms of knowledge production studies of VGI raises critical questions about the moti- and access may affect privacy and facilitate new forms vations and incentives for people to engage in VGI. For of surveillance (Elwood, 2008). example, to what extent does the digital divide influence The core assumption of the LBS industry is citizen participation? He asks whether the “wikification that corporations will own and control locational process” may enlarge disparities in society by allow- information about their individual customers. This ing “the favored few to exploit the mediocre many,” assumption leads to different technical challenges as opposed to narrowing the digital divide, thereby and research questions for situations involving both producing “digital dividends” for a broader community the public and private sectors (Raper et al., 2007). (Sui, 2008). Addressing these issues will require col- Researchers need to take up the challenge of devel- laboration with the open-source software community, oping the synthetic datasets that will limit “the risk as it (1) already understands the relationships between of identification while providing broader access and security, privacy, functionality and freedom (Peterson, maintaining most of the scientific value of the data” 2008), (2) is beginning to understand and implement (NRC, 2007b: 2). We thus support the conclusions the principle of developing software that is both citizen of the National Research Council that “various new controlled, yet privacy oriented (Peterson, 2008), and technical procedures involving transforming data or (3) is often committed to closing the digital divide. creating synthetic datasets show promise for limiting the risk of identification while providing broader ac- cess and maintaining most of the scientific value of What and where are the most significant threats the data. However, these procedures have not been to human privacy as presented by emerging sufficiently studied to realistically determine their geographical technologies and how can we design usefulness” (NRC, 2007b: 2). technologies to provide protection? Collaborations between academics and industry Even as geographical technologies are enabling scientists can lead to the development of effective positive aspects of citizen mapping such as VGI, they algorithms for “geographic encryption,” also known also appear to be among those opening society up to as “geographic masking” (Kwan et al., 2004). There is a new kind of surveillance in the mapping of citizens a need for different ways of suppressing, resampling, (Pickles, 1991; Monmonier, 2002). As an example, or multiplying by random noise certain records in a Elwood (2008) cites www.RottenNeighbor.com, which geographical database (e.g., Armstrong et al., 1999), allows people to post the location and perceived offenses perturbing the underlying microdata rather than per- of their neighbors. Richards (2008) reports that various turbing the database cells themselves (Lane, 2003), shopping centers in the United Kingdom are now using and developing other geomasking techniques for both the cell phone signals of customers to monitor which continuous and categorical variables that can be applied stores people visit and how long they stay there. Yang locally (to a subset of records with a high disclosure et al. (2008) propose an activity recognition system risk) rather than globally (e.g., VanWey et al., 2005; that would track people’s movements throughout their Zimmerman et al., 2007). These approaches are sup- home in order to help them perform forgotten tasks ported by the NRC (2007b), which recommends that (such as taking medicine), choose which rooms to play data stewards develop licensing agreements to provide music in, or diagnose a slow Internet connection. Such increased access to linked social-spatial datasets that a system makes use of the existing Wi-Fi connections include confidential information. Bertino et al. (2008)

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 VOLUNTEERED GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION recommend further that development of standards for (Figure 11.3), but Canada has enacted an identity pro- geographical data security and advanced geographical tection law, requiring Google to blur not only faces, data protection is now critical. In addition, the work but also license plates. Bitouk et al. (2008) have devel- of Zandbergen (2008), which characterizes the capa- oped software that goes beyond the simple blurring bilities of reverse geocoding (i.e., deriving an address of a face in a photograph to “swapping” the features from a position, rather than vice versa) using a range in a face with random features from a library of faces of different network analysis methods, offers a promis- (such as a Flickr library). The result is a composite ing example of how research on this topic could make photograph that changes the identity of the person in advances over the next 10 years. order to further protect his or her privacy. The urgent need for work on privacy protections Over the next 10 years, geographical scientists for locational data becomes clear when one considers should continue research on responsible locational that, despite efforts to ensure the privacy of personal data release formats, while working to develop codes information (e.g., protection of social security, credit of practice for LBS use. The work of Onsrud (2003) card, and driver’s license numbers), no explicit regula- and Solove and Rothenberg (2003) shows that there tion currently protects locational privacy in the United is great potential in collaborations with legal scholars States. It is important to note that data availability and to identify principles governing the dissemination of concerns about privacy vary by culture. For example, personal geographical information in various contexts. in the United States, Google has responded to pri- This will allow researchers to estimate the social ben- vacy concerns by testing and gradually implementing efits and costs of information dissemination, and to a face-blurring algorithm for its Street View service identify potential conflicts. FIGURE 11.3 Implementation of the face­blurring algorithm in Google Street View. SOURCE: maps.google.com/help/maps/street­ view (accessed January 20, 2010).

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 UNDERSTANDING THE CHANGING PLANET summarY The recent and stunning emergence of citizens as both the sources and subjects of mapping has serious implications for individual privacy and many related societal issues, as millions worldwide continue to create a global patchwork of geographical information. The geographical sciences are central to promoting under- standing of the nature and responsible use of these new forms of data acquisition and dissemination.