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Digital Privacy on the Ballot

On November 3rd, long before U.S. voters learned the results of the 2020 presidential election, some digital privacy advocates scored an electoral victory in California. Voters in the Golden State voted to pass California Proposition 24: California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA). CPRA serves as an addendum to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which went …

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Community Cadastres: Open Tech for Land Tenure

When I first heard about the EthicalGEO initiative, I thought of the vast range of challenges that exist within the spheres of ethics and geography. As someone who has studied international politics the last 15 years, I thought about this from a global perspective. What stood out to me as being one of the most …

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The memory of the land…

Property ownership data management is one of the primary applications for a geographic information system (GIS). My first GIS job with the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Oakland was to manage digitizing 350,000 property parcels within the EBMUD service area. When I came to King County GIS in 1998, I managed completion of a …

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What gets measured gets changed The tradeoff of privacy for societal value is a false choice. We can compute useful metrics without succumbing to abusive and illicit surveillance. This is more important now than ever before; to address systemic racism in mobility services we need to know how people are using them and we need …

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Contact-Tracing Apps: Hit or Miss?

We are now well into the second half of the summer season and it has been months since the novel coronavirus initially spread from Wuhan, China to almost every country in the world. There is no cure or vaccine for COVID-19 at present, and that is why governments have been taking such extreme measures, enabling …

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Immigrants and Refugees as Geographers

Who is a geographer? What are the competencies necessary to practice geography? The impact of geography on our lives is so powerful and pervasive, that often we do not think about the geographic decisions that we make every day in our personal lives. ‘Hmmm…I’d like another beer, but first I want to finish watching this …

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Let’s talk about sharing ocean data for the greater good

In 2015, the oceans made an unexpected appearance into the negotiations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) 21. What would be later known as the Paris Agreement, was paramount in recognizing the role that the oceans play in regulating our climate system and for the economies …

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Geospatial Data in Authoritarian Contexts

Ethical issues in geography mean very different things across different contexts. I tend to think of them from an international perspective, and in particular from the perspective of developing, nondemocratic countries. One of the most challenging questions I received when starting my own EthicalGEO project was, “What is the point of using new geospatial technology …

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How Location is Tracked During Protests

After protesters gathered in at least 140 cities across the country in response to the murder of George Floyd on May 25, many activists began calling attention to the privacy risks to demostrators posed by location tracking technologies in the current surveillance age. Mobile location tracking techniques designed to monitor the spread of COVID-19 were …

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Do You Ever Mask Your Location?

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on Michael Rozier’s post, Bad Data Always Leads to Bad Ethics, where he underscores the importance of quality data for shaping public policy in response to COVID-19. To repeat the adage: garbage in, garbage out. In the context of testing and infection rates, Michael brings up a great question: if we …

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