Now, I’m all for privacy and being open and making people understand of the consequences when it comes to the use of some services, especially Facebook and in some cases Google. But in this case I think there is somebody being a bit to eager.
In the Netherlands, the Local Affairs Office decided to warn Dutch municipalities for the use of Google Maps because of privacy issues. This warning was based on a 68 page counting research which showed that many municipalities use Google Maps on there websites but don’t have any idea about the privacy consequences of that usage. The most remarkable result of the report however is that they advice the municipalities to use not another free service, but the paid Google Maps service, which costs 7000 euros a year or develop a tool for 550.000 euros. Talk about useless spending of public money…
The municipalities use Google Maps on their websites to point out different kind of Geo-information in the surroundings. The researchers note that Google collects the data of users of Google Maps for commercial purposes. This is part of the business model of Google and according to the researchers is inappropriate within the communication between government and citizens. Now, this is just bad research since this is well known information to everybody.
The government however believes that the fact that Google uses the data which might come from government websites is against regulations. Even though Google says it doesn’t want personal information, the researchers believe that that isn’t a guarantee the privacy is in order. Since Google is making the rules on this the government feel they don’t have the right control needed. If Google decides to change their own rules the government would be in trouble.
The report (download pdf here, in Dutch!) is full of assumptions and knowledge which is already known to everybody. Still they make quite bold statements. But the boldest one comes when they look at the solutions.
The researchers says the problem lies in the usage of the free Google Maps version. Municipalities are using this because they lack the manpower and knowledge to implement own technologies. They also think the municipalities like to use Google Maps to show they make use of popular tools.
The solution to all of this according to the researchers should be that the free version of Google Maps should be abandoned. And the municipalities should be using… Google Maps… the paid version.
Not Bing Maps, not OpenStreetMap or Yahoo Maps, but the paid version of the same tool they said was bad for the government. They say this is the quick fix, which will cost about 7000 euros a year. Meanwhile the government should be looking at building a specifically made Geotool using GEOZET. The costs of that implementation are about 500,000 euros.
And remember: this is for a map on the website of a municipality showing important parts of the surroundings of that specific municipality, like the church or government buildings…
Now maybe I’m missing the point here, but this sure seems like throwing away public money, first by hiring a company to make such a report filled with rubbish, secondly to advice these kind of costly solutions.
Bureaucracy at its best.