using GPS without license – jail for 7 years.

Just to add/clear up from last blog post amateur rocketry, while it can reach the height of 32000 ft., cruising altitude of most Civilian Commercial Airplanes, In United States and Europe the amateur rocketry community do co-ordinate with the local authorities to know which is good time to fly the rockets, even though rocket hitting a Commercial Airline is rare and less risk-prone than Bird-hits which is more dangerous for Commercial Airline Pilots.

Now 2 days back, I read several newspaper reports stating that you would have to take license for doing any activity around mapping. The proposed bill can be seen in detail at Ministry of Home Affairs.

As a layman user who uses maps to find about places, distances between places, time and estimated duration of travel, route to travel etc. all of which would be illegal to do if I’m reading the proposed bill right.

Now, by license it means either a bureaucratic structure or fees or both. In either case, it means that a woman cannot share her GPS co-ordinates if s/he is in need of help either due to accident, being lost, molestation, rape or any such life-threatening situation.

But before, I go further, there are a couple of important points to be made :-

a. This has happened just after IRNSS-1G was successfully launched and in orbit.

b. Bhuvan :- when development of the app. was started was going to be similar to something like openstreetmap but then it just became a web-service where you could download maps with no idea where the data is being sourced from.

Whereas OSM is fully open-sourced and data is crowd-sourced and under Odbl :-

[$] aptitude show gis-osm

Package: gis-osm
Version: 0.0.6
State: not installed
Priority: extra
Section: misc
Maintainer: Debian GIS Project
Architecture: all
Uncompressed Size: 21.5 k
Depends: gis-tasks (= 0.0.6)
Recommends: creepy, gir1.2-osmgpsmap-1.0, gosmore, gpsprune, gpxviewer, imposm, jmapviewer, josm, libgeo-coder-osm-perl, libgeo-osm-tiles-perl,libjs-leaflet, libjs-mgrs, libjs-openlayers, libjs-proj4, libosmpbf-java, maptool, merkaartor, mkgmap, mkgmap-splitter, mkgmapgui, node-carto, node-mgrs, node-proj4, node-rbush, openstreetmap-carto, osm2pgsql, osmcoastline, osmctools, osmium-tool, osmjs, osmosis, osmpbf-bin, python-imposm-parser, python-osmapi, python-pyosmium, python3-osmapi, qlandkartegt, rel2gpx, routino, sosi2osm, tilecache, tilelite, tilestache, viking
Suggests: alacarte-map-server, cascadenik, gebabbel, gpscorrelate, gpscorrelate-gui, josm-plugins, libjs-openlayers3, libosm-gary68-perl, libreadosm-dev, node-kosmtik, node-leaflet-hash, node-openlayers, node-osmium, openstreetmap-map-icons-classic | openstreetmap-map-icons-scalable | openstreetmap-map-icons-square, osmembrane, osmium, osmium-contrib, osrm, osrm-tools, qmapcontrol, routino-www, sjjb-map-icons, tkosm
Description: OpenStreetMap related programs
Set of Debian packages which are dealing with OpenStreetMap data.

c. As far as security implications are concerned, I don’t think it will help much. It isn’t that India can stop Satellites from watching India. Any bad actor could buy significant high-resolution maps of anything in and around India with the Government being none the wiser. The only ones who lose is the general public.

d. The above proposal/bill flies in the face of ‘Digital India’ and ‘Startup India’. Many startups re-interpret existing knowledge. By making maps harder to get and more expensive, it only will lessen skill-sets and availability of skilled labor as all community and private expertise would dry up.

e. There seems to be a plan to monopolize, censor and manipulate such data for its own ends – I imagine that there would have been several instances where either the State or Central Govt. must have fallen flat in court of law as people could provide maps and data from different sources which would have disproved whatever statistics Govt. of India might have provided (not by malafide intent always but probably not augmenting data regularly.)

f. Each mobile would have GPS – With the recent call to have GPS on all mobile phones, this would be perfect for the Govt. to do surveillance on its citizens. And if this seems paranoid, see nytimes report . When the United States Govt. can do it, the Indian Govt. will surely do it. There is strong possibility of abuse of this sort of information.

g. I also don’t see any of the political parties talking much about it, other than paying lip-service to it unless this becomes an “issue” as any political party in power would benefit from it long-term.

h. As far as bad actors are concerned, they could simply buy maps from foreign sources. Even the current GPS would be going in for major overhaul soon/ish there are and would be spy agencies with spy rockets who probably have better/more high-resolution cameras but this is getting into cloak-and-dagger stuff which I don’t want to.

i. Lastly, this flies in the face of different countries being more permissive about making and using crowd-sourced data, layers and Maps. The State of the Map conferences and YouTube videos of the same give ample understanding of how different countries look at it. I’m sure they also have security concerns but they seem to subscribe to more eyes looking at things rather the proposed policy GOI has come up.

Also see Indian Express column in today’s paper which says the same thing.

Also see sajjad’s blog post on the same topic.

The only loser I see in this would be the general public as they wouldn’t be able to exercise their fundamental right to expression and movement as GPS offers both.

One thought on “using GPS without license – jail for 7 years.

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