Ethical Implementation of GI Technologies

Implementing geographic information technologies ethically
ArcNews Online – Fall 2008
By Harlan J. Onsrud, Executive Director, Global Spatial Data Infrastructure Association

As the globalization of geospatial information resources and services accelerates, it becomes far more challenging to protect personal information privacy; pursue traditional business or agency revenue generation models; protect property rights in spatial data products and services; ensure access to government data, records, and services; and provide security for our information systems. The traditional means of exerting control are often ill-suited to dealing with rapidly morphing technological and social conditions.

In this article, Onsrud?explores some of the alternatives for envisioning relations among parties. In selecting possible control mechanisms,?he argues that morally defensible geospatial technology designs and information system implementations are far more likely to survive and thrive in the long term, both within the marketplace and within and across democratic societies, than those that use other controls as their only touchstones in guiding relations. Several examples are cited. He argues further that the social and economic ramifications of technology developments and implementations need to be reflected upon up front in order to drive designs and implementations toward results that support laudable moral values, not as an afterthought by business managers, agency personnel, or code writers. After millions of lines of code have been written or substantial money has been spent on a system build, it is often too late or extremely burdensome to adjust. Consumers and citizens don’t need to be sold on morally defensible designs and implementations. We all want them. Striving hard to understand and serve what consumers and citizens actually want will result in the highest payoff for businesses, government agencies, and society in general.

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