Creating the policy and legal framework for a location-enabled society

Creating the Policy and Legal Framework for a Location–Enabled Society

Center for Geographic Analysis: Harvard University

The 2013 CGA Annual Spring Conference will be held Thursday and Friday, May 2-3, 2013 in the CGIS Tsai Auditorium. It is free and open to the public. Download the conference program brochure. Live webcast.

Location matters. Energy, sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, natural hazards, traffic and transportation, crime and political instability, water quality and availability, climate change, migration and urbanization – all key issues of the 21st century – have a location component. Critical geographic thinking, understanding and reasoning are essential skills for modern societies, and geospatial technologies for location based data collection, management, analysis and visualization have developed rapidly in recent decades. Today, these technologies are widely applied in routine operations in large corporations, entrepreneurial businesses, government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the social media of our daily lives. They save cost, improve efficiency, increase transparency, enhance communication, and help solve problems. Location-enabled devices are weaving “smart grids” and building “smart cities;” they allow people to discover a friend in a shopping mall, catch a bus at its next stop, check surrounding air quality while walking down a street, or avoid a rain storm on a tourist route – now or in the near future. And increasingly they allow those who provide services to track, whether we are walking past stores on the street or seeking help in a natural disaster.

Such deep penetration of the geospatial technologies into people’s daily lives, however, generates policy and legal concerns with privacy, ownership rights of location information, national and homeland security, uncertainty about government funding and regulation, and more. These issues are relatively new to the academic community and to human societies at large. Technology developers, industries, legal experts, policy makers and citizen rights advocates would be well served in talking to one another as they grapple with the opportunities and challenges of a location-enabled society.

The Centre for Spatial Law and Policy based in Washington, DC, the Center for Geographic Analysis, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University are co-hosting a two-day program examining the legal and policy issues that will impact geospatial technologies and the development of location-enabled societies. The event will take place at Harvard University on May 2-3, 2013 and will bring together leaders in geospatial technology – including earth observation, spatial data infrastructures, smart cities, intelligent transportation systems, smart grids – with experts on technology policy, privacy and intellectual property rights. The goal is to explore the different dimensions of policy and legal concerns in geospatial technology applications, and to begin in creating a policy and legal framework for a location-enabled society. Download the conference program brochureLive webcast.

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