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Mapping as a Moral Act

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that a budget is a moral document. There is always genuine disagreement how to allocate limited resources, as there is genuine disagreement how to live ethical lives. A budget reveals one’s value system and recognizes that life involves difficult trade-offs. And it isn’t just about what appears in the …

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Announcing a Partnership with the Henry Luce Foundation

The American Geographical Society (AGS) and its EthicalGEO Initiative has been awarded a grant by the Henry Luce Foundation to investigate the societal implications of geospatial technology and location tracking during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. As public consciousness coalesces around location data collection and its implications amidst the pandemic, the grant awarded to AGS …

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Teaching Ethics with GIS

Maps and the GIS behind those maps are powerful tools for informing the present and making plans for the future.  How can ethics be effectively taught in geography, GIS, health, planning, engineering, business, and other courses in which the “where” question is being asked?  I believe that the very same GIS tools that present ethical …

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Mapping Covid-19’s impact and response in communities in Kenya

As cases of coronavirus continue to mount in Kenya, Map Kibera has launched the Kenya Covid-19 Tracker Ushahidi instance in order to track cases in the country and resources available, especially in the slum areas of Nairobi such as Kibera.  Those who live in and work with residents of informal settlements and refugee camps are …

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Data Privacy: Legal Landscape in the United States

The issue of data privacy is not a twenty-first century concept: it is a debate that goes back more than a century. In an increasingly interconnected world with rapidly developing technology, it is important to take a step back and realize what is happening with the information we provide when we type on a keyboard …

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Bad Data Always Leads to Bad Ethics

The COVID-19 pandemic has surfaced some very important ethical questions. Particular to this space is using geolocation to track individuals and respond to the crisis. Yet there is a connected, although broader, concept that concerns me more than the compromised privacy that comes with tracking. I’m concerned that we are making important decisions based on terribly …

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Towards a collaborative future, the silver lining amidst the crisis

In recent weeks, we have all started to increasingly populate our daily reads with news about COVID-19. As an EthicalGEO Fellow, I have been on top of reports about how governments are accessing geolocation data of diagnosed patients to trace back their activities and identify other potential cases. This idea has raised many concerns about …

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The Practical Application of the GIS Code of Ethics – A Case Study

For those who live in the Seattle area or for those who visit Seattle, SeaTac is a curious name but also the most frequent gateway to the Pacific Northwest. A few years ago it was also the location of an interesting case in the practical application of the GIS Code of Ethics. The ethical use …

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Robots Save Elephants

Artificial Intelligence continues to be a very controversial issue fueling a multitude of ethical questions on surveillance, data security, the potential loss of human jobs, and, in the most extreme, the fear of “the rise of the robots”. Could this same technology that is alarming to some also be used to benefit wildlife conservation? Recent …

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EthicalGEO in the UN Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development

The UN Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development (Decade) represents a global effort to reverse the trend of declining ocean health observed in the last decades. Through it, stakeholders around the world representing research institutions, UN organizations, business, technology, NGOs, philanthropy and many other sectors, will come together focused on a shared interest, our …

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YouthMappers + EthicalGEO

YouthMappers, an organization working to “cultivate a generation of young leaders to create resilient communities and to define their world by mapping it,” has taken extraordinary steps to ensure their work does no harm to the communities they serve. Check out the vlog from YouthMappers Director and Co-founder Dr. Patricia Solís, discussing considerations the organization …

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Productivity vs. Privacy: Tracking Workers On (and Off) the Job

In February of 2018, Amazon was awarded two patents for a new wristband device that could track the locations and hand movements of warehouse workers in real time. The wristband was described as part of a “haptic feedback” system that would sense the location of a worker’s wrist in relation to some external equipment — …

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The Ethical Mapping Guidelines: how not to map

Douglas Namale of Map Kibera Trust shares a map of Kibera schools with a school leader. Those who are currently on the margins of a society are in a particularly disadvantaged position with regard to decision making, and data and maps may either contribute to that imbalance or help to rectify it. Vulnerability essentially means …

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ICE under Fire

Buying and selling personal location data isn’t new. We know that when we open Google Maps, order an Uber, or check the weather, someone, somewhere, probably knows about it. Using these apps has become an integral part of operating in the modern age; we take advantage of them because they are widely available, and they …

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Geospatial Ethics: Beg, Borrow, and Steal

I often wonder whether the author of Ecclesiastes was right when writing, “There is nothing new under the sun.” It seems like a question that the real geographers among us could best answer, but I also think the question is relevant to those of us working in the area of geospatial ethics. More specifically, I …

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99 Problems for Google Maps

The internet got a laugh this week when we realized just how easily one person can influence something as seemingly infallible as Google Maps. Berlin-based artist Simon Weckert pulled a wagon full of 99 phones at a walking pace down empty city streets and tricked the world’s preeminent mapping platform into thinking Berlin’s traffic was …

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Clearview AI and Facial Recognition as a Geoprivacy Issue

On the heels of December’s New York Times investigation of a set of 50 billion points harvested from smartphones comes another eye-opener on the state of personal data collection: facial recognition powered by scraping social media and other websites, packaged and sold to law enforcement. The company at the heart of this new article by privacy journalist Kashmir Hill …

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CCPA, Explained

On January 1, California instituted the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), a law designed to protect consumer data and enhance privacy rights for state residents. You may have heard about CCPA in national legislative debates over privacy or followed the backlash from tech companies, but what exactly is the new privacy law? And what does …

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EthicalGEO: A Year in Review

The new year provides us all a time to reflect on the past and set goals for the year to come. The past year has been one for the books for geospatial technology. The New York Times released studies on location tracking in December 2018 and December 2019 that changed the way we think about …

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NYT’s Geolocation Data – Not as New as We Think

The power of geolocation recently caught everyone’s attention with the New York Times story on a dataset of locations from 12 million cell phones over the course of several months. The original piece, and those that follow, raise a series of ethical questions that appear both in the article and in the comments. It reinforces …

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Every Street, Mapped

Google’s Street View project announced this week that it has hit a significant milestone–a “10 million mile” milestone, in fact. The tech giant has captured 10 million miles of photos in their Street View feature, enough mileage to circle the earth more than 400 times.  Street View launched in 2007 and has increased its purview …

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Introducing the Benchmark Initiative

While the American Geographical Society (AGS) is based in New York City, the EthicalGEO Initiative is international in scope. Given the global reach of GeoTech and GeoData, it is no surprise that a related conversation about the ethical implications of its utilization is taking place across the pond.  Launched earlier this year, the Benchmark Initiative …

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Whose Map is it? Mapping for all.

I’m happy to have been selected as an EthicalGEO fellow by the American Geographical Society. I will be working on developing guidelines for mapping with vulnerable populations, and I am looking for those interested in and working on this topic to get in touch with me! I recently spent the summer in Nairobi, looking back …

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The Ethics of Geospatial Data Collection – Never Neutral

Collecting data is rarely a neutral exercise—and collecting geospatial data about informal settlements is never a neutral exercise. That is why upon becoming an EthicalGEO Fellow, and preparing to conduct a pilot project in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I feel it is incumbent on myself to start first with the ethical dimensions of geospatial data …

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Democratizing Geospatial Technology

This “Democratizing Geospatial Technology Project,” funded by the EthicalGEO Fellowship program, has as its central vision, that environmental justice stakeholders themselves are best equipped to produce spatial data visualizations of their communities.  The primary goal is the development of a community-based participatory mapping tutorial model, that can be replicated for use by grassroots organizations employing …

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Applying GIS and Geographic Analysis to Support Equity and Social Justice

I was honored to have been awarded one of seven 2019-2020 Ethical GEO fellowships by the American Geographical Society.  I have been influenced during much of my GIS career by William Bunge, a geographer whose work pre-dated GIS, but perhaps foreshadowed it in his book Theoretical Geography. My interest in GIS for issues of equity …

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A global map of poverty in fishing communities

In 2014 when I started my Ph.D. at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, I was convinced that many of the fisheries sustainability issues that we face today could be addressed with technical solutions. I thought we needed more data on fish growth and reproduction, a better understanding of how environmental variability affects fish populations, and better …

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