Tag Archive | United States Congress

NEW US Govt Accountability Office Report on Geospatial Data

Geospatial Data: Progress Needed on Identifying Expenditures, Building and Utilizing Data Infrastructure, and Reducing Duplicative Efforts (GAO-15-193, Released March 16, 2015).Federal agencies and state governments use a variety of geospatial datasets to support their missions. For example, after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the Federal Emergency Management Agency used geospatial data to identify 44,000 households that were damaged and inaccessible and reported that, as a result, it was able to provide expedited assistance to area residents. Federal agencies report spending billions of dollars on geospatial investments; however, the estimates are understated because agencies do not always track geospatial investments. For example, these estimates do not include billions of dollars spent on earth-observing satellites that produce volumes of geospatial data. The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have started an initiative to have agencies identify and report annually on geospatial-related investments as part of the fiscal year 2017 budget process.

FGDC and selected federal agencies have made progress in implementing their responsibilities for the National Spatial Data Infrastructure as outlined in OMB guidance; however, critical items remain incomplete. For example, the committee established a clearinghouse for records on geospatial data, but the clearinghouse lacks an effective search capability and performance monitoring. FGDC also initiated plans and activities for coordinating with state governments on the collection of geospatial data; however, state officials GAO contacted are generally not satisfied with the committee’s efforts to coordinate with them. Among other reasons, they feel that the committee is focused on a federal perspective rather than a national one, and that state recommendations are often ignored. In addition, selected agencies have made limited progress in their own strategic planning efforts and in using the clearinghouse to register their data to ensure they do not invest in duplicative data. For example, 8 of the committee’s 32 member agencies have begun to register their data on the clearinghouse, and they have registered 59 percent of the geospatial data they deemed critical. Part of the reason that agencies are not fulfilling their responsibilities is that OMB has not made it a priority to oversee these efforts. Until OMB ensures that FGDC and federal agencies fully implement their responsibilities, the vision of improving the coordination of geospatial information and reducing duplicative investments will not be fully realized.

OMB guidance calls for agencies to eliminate duplication, avoid redundant expenditures, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the sharing and dissemination of geospatial data. However, some data are collected multiple times by federal, state, and local entities, resulting in duplication in effort and resources. A new initiative to create a national address database could potentially result in significant savings for federal, state, and local governments. However, agencies face challenges in effectively coordinating address data collection efforts, including statutory restrictions on sharing certain federal address data. Until there is effective coordination across the National Spatial Data Infrastructure, there will continue to be duplicative efforts to obtain and maintain these data at every level of government.

Why GAO Did This Study

The federal government collects, maintains, and uses geospatial information—data linked to specific geographic locations—to help support varied missions, including national security and natural resources conservation. To coordinate geospatial activities, in 1994 the President issued an executive order to develop a National Spatial Data Infrastructure—a framework for coordination that includes standards, data themes, and a clearinghouse. GAO was asked to review federal and state coordination of geospatial data.

GAO’s objectives were to (1) describe the geospatial data that selected federal agencies and states use and how much is spent on geospatial data; (2) assess progress in establishing the National Spatial Data Infrastructure; and (3) determine whether selected federal agencies and states invest in duplicative geospatial data. To do so, GAO identified federal and state uses of geospatial data; evaluated available cost data from 2013 to 2015; assessed FGDC’s and selected agencies’ efforts to establish the infrastructure; and analyzed federal and state datasets to identify duplication.

What GAO Recommends

GAO suggests that Congress consider assessing statutory limitations on address data to foster progress toward a national address database. GAO also recommends that OMB improve its oversight of FGDC and federal agency initiatives, and that FGDC and selected agencies fully implement initiatives. The agencies generally agreed with the recommendations and identified plans to implement them.

For more information, contact David A. Powner at (202) 512-9286 or pownerd@gao.gov.

PDF of Report and Full Recommendations can be downloaded here.

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Cops’ Cellphone Tracking Can Be Even More Precise Than GPS

by Andy Greenberg, Forbes.com May 17, 2012

In the wake of a historic Supreme Court ruling that police can’t use GPS devices planted on a car to track suspects without a warrant, Congress is reconsidering the question of what kinds of location tracking constitute an invasion of privacy. And one privacy and computer security professor wants to remind them that the gadget we all carry in our pockets can track us more precisely than any device merely attached to our car–even without the use of GPS. On Thursday the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing to discuss a proposed bill to limit location tracking of electronic devices without a warrant, what it’s calling the Geolocational Privacy and Surveillance Act, or the GPS Act. …

via Reminder To Congress: Cops’ Cellphone Tracking Can Be Even More Precise Than GPS – Forbes.

The Real SOPA Battle: Innovators vs. Goliath

by James Allworth and Maxwell Wessel, Harvard Business Review, January  18, 2012

… the purpose of this article isn’t to explain what SOPA [Stop Online Piracy Act] and PIPA [Protect IP Act] will do. Instead, it’s about explaining what’s brought them about: SOPA and PIPA are prime examples of big companies trying to do everything they can to stop new competitors from innovating. …

So if “content” vs “technology” doesn’t capture what’s going on in this fight, what does? Well, SOPA makes much more sense if you look at the debate as big companies unwilling to accept change versus the innovative companies and startups that embrace change. And if we accept that startups are created to find new ways to create value for consumers, the debate is actually between the financial interests of “big content” shareholders versus consumer interests at large. …

Check out the full text of this interesting article at The Real SOPA Battle: Innovators vs. Goliath – James Allworth and Maxwell Wessel – Harvard Business Review.

NOTE: If you want to learn more about the history of copyright law and the tug-a-war between big content shareholders and new innovators, check out Jessica Littman’s book Digital Copyright or her many articles on the politics of copyright and copyright reform.

Analysis of R & D Investments in FY 2012 Appropriations Bill

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) R&D Budget and Policy Program has released its analysis of research and development investment in FY 2012 Congressional appropriations by Agency, including for the USGS and EPA. For links to the AAAS analysis, summary tables, and more visit AAAS – R&D Budget and Policy Program – Home.

On Friday, December 23, the President signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012, the so-called “megabus” spending bill. … The trillion-dollar compromise package incorporates the remaining nine individual spending bills in the following areas: Defense; Energy and Water; Interior and Environment; Homeland Security; Financial Services; Labor, HHS and Education; State and Foreign Operations; Military Construction and Veterans; and the Legislature. … Based on initial AAAS analysis, total R&D spending for FY2012 stands at $142 billion, approximately $1.8 billion or 1.3% below FY2011 levels. The summary table is posted immediately below, and individual agency tables can be found under the subject headings that follow.

What’s on the Tech Agenda for Congress?

Washington’s Back: What’s on the Tech Agenda? Opinion by Leslie Harris, Center for Democracy and Technology, ABCNews, Septeber 16, 2011

Few Americans are aware that there is an active tech agenda pending before this Congress that carries enormous implications for technological innovation, for the privacy and free expression rights of Internet users and, ultimately, for the openness of the Internet. … I retired my crystal ball some years ago; I know better than to predict whether and when Congress might act on any particular measure. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take a moment to understand what is at stake and let members of Congress know where we stand — firmly on the side of the open Internet. So here are some of the top tech bills to watch:

  • [Consumer privacy;
  • Government privacy (ECPA);
  • the Protect IP Act (PIPA);
  • Data retention;
  • Cybersecurity;
  • Data breach;
  • and net neutrality; GPS & LightSquared; and GPS tracking and the Fourth Amendment.]

For full text of the article, visit Tech Agenda: Bills Carry Enormous Implications for Technology – ABC News.

Boucher Looks Into His Crystal Ball On Privacy Legislation

By Juliana Gruenwald, National Journal, October 19, 2011

Former Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., a key player on tech and telecom issues for more than two decades, made some bold and not-so-bold predictions on Wednesday about the fate of privacy and data security legislation this Congress. The not-so-bold prediction is that lawmakers will not pass broad comprehensive privacy legislation this Congress, a view echoed by both privacy advocates and industry critics of such proposals. … But Boucher also predicted that the House, at the very least, will likely pass a children’s privacy bill offered by Reps. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Ed Markey, D-Mass., and also a measure, approved last week by the House Judiciary Committee, that would update a 1988 law protecting the privacy of consumer video rental records.

For full text of the article, visit Boucher Looks Into His Crystal Ball On Privacy Legislation – Tech Daily Dose.

Summary of Privacy Bills Introduced in Congress this Year

Nice compilation of links to multitude of pending privacy bills in the US Congress.

by Josephine Liu, Inside Privacy,  June 17, 2011

In light of the number of privacy and data security-related bills currently being considered by Congress, we thought it might be helpful to provide a roundup of the legislation introduced or circulated to date.

For full text of article, via Flurry of Privacy Bills Introduced in Congress; More to Come? : Inside Privacy : Washington DC Lawyer and Attorney for Data Security, FCC, HIPAA, Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

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