Tag Archive | California

CA Supreme Court Issues Ruling on GIS Open Records Case

For the history of Sierra Club v. Orange County see GIS Cafe Blog (May 10, 2013): Sierra Club v. Orange County Has Its Day In Court

For the CA Supreme Court ruling (PDF), visit: CA Supreme Court Decision July 8, 2013

To the extent that the term ―computer mapping system is ambiguous, the constitutional canon requires us to interpret it in a way that maximizes the public‘s access to information unless the Legislature has expressly provided to the contrary. (Officeof Inspector General v. Superior Court, supra, 189 Cal.App.4th at p.709.) As explained above, we find nothing in the text, statutory context, or legislative history of the term―computer mapping system‖ that allows us to say the Legislature clearly sought to exclude GIS formatted parcel data from the definition of a public record when it can be disclosed without any accompanying software.

Applying the interpretive rule set forth in article I, section 3, subdivision (b)(2), we must conclude that section 6254.9(b)‘s exclusion of―computer mapping systems from the definition of a public record does not encompass a parcel database in a GIS file format. Contrary to what the County contends, this reading of the statute does not ―repeal or nullify‖ a ―statutory exception to the right of access to public records‖ in contravention of article I, section 3, subdivision (b)(5). Our holding simply construes the terms of section 6254.9 in light of the constitutional mandate that a statute ―shall be narrowly construed if it limits the right of access.(Cal. Const., art. I, §3, subd. (b)(2).)
We note that this interpretation is consistent with a 2005 opinion letter issued by the Attorney General in response to a request by a member of the Assembly to determine whether ― parcel boundary map data maintained in an electronic format by a county assessor [is] subject to public inspection and copying under provisions of the California Public Records Act (88 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 153, 153 (2005).) The opinion letter explained that ―the term ̳computer mapping systems‘ in section 6254.9 does not refer to or include basic maps and boundary information per se (i.e., the basic data compiled, updated, and maintained by county assessors), but rather denotes unique computer programs to process such data using mapping functions original programs that have been designed and produced by a public agency.‖ (88 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. at p. 159.) Accordingly, the Attorney General concluded, ―parcel map data maintained in an electronic format by a county assessor does not qualify as a ̳computer mapping system‘under the exemption provisions of section 6254.9 (88 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. at p. 159) and must be provided upon request as a public record at a fee limited to the direct cost of producing the copy (id.at pp.163–164). As noted above, the record here indicates that 47 counties in California maintain GIS-formatted parcel base maps and provide access to those GIS-formatted databases as public records. (Ante, at p. 3.) Of those 47 counties, 19 changed their fee policies following the Attorney General‘s opinion letter, according to Sierra Club‘s expert.
Because section 6254.9(b) does not exclude GIS-formatted databases like the OC Landbase from the definition of a public record, such databases are subject to disclosure unless otherwise exempt from the PRA. Unlike the records at issue in County of Santa Clara v. Superior Court (2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 1301, the County here does not argue that the OC Landbase is subject to any other exemptions. The fact that the County offered to produce the information underlying the database in an alternative format suggests that no such exemption applies. Similarly, the County‘s general practice of producing the OC Landbase to the public, albeit pursuant to a licensing agreement, suggests that its contents do not implicate any of the confidentiality or other concerns underlying th e exemptions set forth in section 6254. Because the OC Landbase is not excluded from the definition of a public record under section 6254.9(b), and because the County does not argue that the database is otherwise exempt from disclosure, the County must produce the OC Landbase in response to Sierra Club‘s request―in any electronic format in which it holds the information‖ (§6253.9 (a)(1)) at a cost not to exceed the direct cost of duplication (§§ 6253.9 (a)(2),6253, subd. (b)).
CONCLUSION
For the reasonsabove, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal andremand to that court with directions to remand to the superior court to issue a writ consistent with this opinion.
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Reflections on the value of ethics in relation to Earth observation

Abstract:

Earth observation is a science and technology with tremendous power to collect data over the whole of the Earth at many wavelengths and at many spatial resolutions. But does this science and technology, or rather the use of this science and technology, have an ethical dimension? This article explores the application of ethical concepts to Earth observation. Three main aspects of ethics are examined: duty theories of ethics, consequentialist ethics, and environmental ethics. These ethical ideas are then applied to the UN Principles on Remote Sensing, the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters and to Google Earth, and also to questions of security and privacy. The article concludes that there is no absolute ethical position in relation to Earth observation, but a dependency on the perspective of the observer. For link to the article (but it’s behind a $58 paywall, seriously), click here.

Author: Ray Harris

Source: International Journal of Remote Sensing, Volume 34, Number 4, 2013 , pp. 1207-1219(13)

Publisher: Taylor and Francis Ltd

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01431161.2012.718466

Publication date: 2013-02-20

NASA’s Landsat Data Continuity Mission Launch

by Dina Spector, Business Insider, Feb 11, 2013

The eighth satellite in NASA’s Earth-watching Landsat fleet will launch Monday, Feb. 11 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California…. The joint program between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey is the longest-running data record of Earth observations from space. …The Landsat program enables scientists to track major changes of Earth’s surface, including melting glaciers, urban explosion and the effects of natural disasters.

Read more from Business Insider NASA’s Landsat Data Continuity Mission Launch – Business Insider.

For the latest Landsat news go to it’s NASA mission page here.

 

Op-Ed Silicon Valley’s Problem – Technology vs Governance

By Catherine Bracy, Director of International Programs at Code for America, December 31, 2012

…But even if they were politically savvy, the issues the technology industry would be pushing are a different set of interests than consumers (and by that I mean citizens) are concerned with. Which brings me to the second part of what I meant: those who have outsized power and influence through network technology to make their voices heard often put it to use in the most inane and self-centered ways. There was lots of talk after the Internet beat back SOPA and PIPA about the potential for networked models of citizen participation that actually WORKED. The so-far failed opportunity to realize that potential has been starkly revealed in the last few weeks: the tech-savvy in an uproar over Instagram’s terms of service while at the same time sitting idly by as FISA gets reauthorized, and staring helplessly from the sidelines as Congress bungles the fiscal cliff. …

For full text of this op-ed, please visit Silicon Valley’s Problem | BraceLand.

Crowdsourcing the Budget

Commons Lab, Woodrow Wilson Center, October 2012

In the midst of California’s severe budget crisis, essential services faced deep cuts, school years were shortened, and public discontent with the budget process was at an all-time high. Against pressure to make similar, sweeping budget cuts and risk public backlash, the city of San Jose took a novel approach: They gave their citizens control of the reins to help them understand what it meant to run a city. San Jose partnered with nonprofit software company Every Voice Engaged to create a budget simulator game, which groups of citizens would play to express their preferences to the government. While games have often been used by decision-makers to simulate difficult problems and identify an effective solution, the city of San Jose knew that by putting its citizens in the policymakers’ shoes, they could build an appreciation for the tradeoffs that go into designing a budget. This exercise proved highly successful, and elicited levels of civic engagement at the local level that the city of San Jose will continue to leverage for future projects.

For the full text of this interview, please visit the Commons Lab Blog.

California Governor Vetoes Landmark Location-Privacy Law

by David Kravets, Threat Level, Wired, October 2, 2012

California Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed legislation that would have required the state’s authorities to get a probable-cause warrant signed by a judge to obtain location information from electronic devices such as tablets, mobile phones and laptops. The measure passed the state Senate in May and the Assembly approved the plan in August. … Brown, a Democrat, last year vetoed a measure requiring police officers to obtain a warrant before searching someone’s cellphone after arresting them. That leaves California police officers free to search through the mobile phones of persons arrested for any crime. …

For full text of the article, visit California Governor Vetoes Landmark Location-Privacy Law | Threat Level | Wired.com.

Federal Court Hears Location Data Case

by Jess Kamen, Politico Morning Tech, Oct 2, 2012

Courts and legislatures around the country are struggling with where to draw the line on government access to your electronic data. A federal appeals court in New Orleans [recently heard] oral arguments in a case involving the government’s ability to review location data from cellphone companies. To obtain the information, lower courts have ruled that the government needs a search warrant supported by probable cause. The government argues that the information is cellphone company business records, and cellphone users have given up some degree of privacy when they give up their location information.

California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have required law enforcement to get a search warrant before obtaining any location information from any device. ‘It may be that legislative action is needed to keep the law current in our rapidly evolving electronic age,’ said the governor in his veto message, adding he was not ‘convinced’ the bill struck the right balance between the needs of law enforcement and individual privacy. http://tinyurl.com/8kx9s4x

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