In a study released on March 25, the Rand Corporation makes several recommendations regarding the federal government’s role in dealing with concerns over the potential use of public geospatial information by terrorisists. The full report and a shorter (18-page) summary are available for free download in PDF format. A printed version (232 pages) is also available for a $24.
In general, the conclusions of the study are that much of the data (primarily from federal sources) that is easily accessible today is of minimal value to terrorists, either because it is too general or it is not current. For data that might be of value, some of it is available from multiple sources including citizen web sites, so having effective restrictions on access could be an involved process.
Some data that would be highly sensitive (e.g., details on critical points in an electric transmission grid) were made less accessible shortly after Sept. 11, 2001.
The report has four general recommendations:
The federal government should play a proactive role in bring greater coherence and consistency to assessing the homeland security implications of publicly available geospatial information.
An analyltical process should be used by federal agencies and other organizations to assess the potential homeland security sensitivity of specific pieces of publicly available geospatial information and whether restricting access would enhance security.
For the longer term, the federal government should develop a more comprehensive model for addressing the security of geospatial information.
In additon, the federal government should increase the awareness of the public and private sectors concerning the potential sensitivity of geospatial information.