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Mappers are terrorists?

A recent public email I wrote, after the worrying quotes published in http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/latestnews/Festival-is-key-terror-target.3723328.jp

To: postmaster@cityoflondon.police.uk
CC: gm39@st-andrews.ac.uk, Kenny.MacAskill.msp@scottish.parliament.uk, info@rcahms.gov.uk, public.enquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

Hi,

This is a public email, also available at http://lodge.glasgownet.com/mappers-are-terrorists/
I have also included some other recipients that may consider raising this issue at a higher level, may also be affected, or may be able to comment further on the situation.

Recently, the City of London Police Head of Counter-terrorism gave a talk to the public in Edinburgh regarding the issue of terrorism to the people of Scotland, and Edinburgh in particular. This, however, raises some concerns with myself and my fellow project workers. Myself, and over 23000 others, do voluntary work for the OpenStreetMap project (http://www.openstreetmap.org/). This is a collaborative effort to map the world, and originated in the UK itself. We work to free ourselves, and everybody else, from the constraints of expensive, inadequate and copyrighted maps. In short, we aim to do for maps what Wikipedia did for encyclopedias.

To do this, we drive the streets of our country, and many others, with GPS receivers ensuring roads are mapped properly. We use cameras to verify our work, and to keep records. Similarly we draw maps of junctions, take notes of amenities, shops and anything else that is of use to everyone. We have a special deal with Yahoo to use their satellite imagery for the mapping of roads, but we still use GPS to verify these, and will still take pictures of shops, post boxes, bus stops, junctions, buildings, and so on… We even go as far as writing down house numbers, so that the next generation of in-car satnav can use our data to effectively get you to your destination.

All this flies directly in the face of Mr Lovegroves recent comments, quoting from http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/latestnews/Festival-is-key-terror-target.3723328.jp

“This means noticing people who suddenly start appearing at a café and perhaps draw maps of the surrounding area. It could be someone using video equipment where it wouldn’t normally be done,”

“We mustn’t be stereotypical – a terrorist is just as likely to be a white, blonde woman as opposed to the image many people may hold.”

Given that I was born and brought up in Glasgow, I’m paler than even the average Brit. I am also likely to pull up at the side of the road, take some pictures, write on my notepad, and then drive off again. I may even be on foot or bicycle, and have a bag full of equipment from notepads to gps recievers, to cameras and pocket computers.

I would like to know what efforts you are making to ensure that the police, and the public alike, are not being thrown into a frenzied state of paranoia? To ensure that people like myself, my colleagues, and other projects of a similar ilk are not unjustly victimized due to your over-generalization. I would also like to know what we should do in order to avoid being incorrectly labeled as terrorists by the police and the public? Although the ubiquitous yellow hi-vis jacket will go far in making a person invisible to the eye, it is not the complete solution in this case. We are in danger of being arrested and unfairly held for a 4 weeks (possibly 6 or 7…) under anti-terrorism laws, just by doing our hobby, our voluntary service to the community.

Your answers, and advice, would be greatly appreciated.

Kyle Gordon

6 thoughts on “Mappers are terrorists?”

  1. whilst wearing a hi viz jacket and doing some surveying for openstreetmap a chap looking worried looked out of a nearby building and said
    “is my car in the wrong place?”
    I had been mistaken not for your typical terrorist but as the modern day scourge of society – the camera and notebook-toting contracted-out parking attendant.
    Of course my retort was
    “looks fine to me, but how should I know?”
  2. Simply because you have the capacity to do something, does not give you the right to do it.

    People forget that regulations do exist to protect the people and even if you believe your ideas harm no one and benefit everyone, you are in no position to make that choice on the behalf of the voting public.

    More so, by holding “voting” behind closed doors, hidden from the non-mapper public, you prove that the OSM movement is not democratic but an oligarchy. (In the sense that rather than bring the issues to county, city, state, national, or world governing bodies; you create yet another body that someone may not know about but has a direct effect on said person.)

    Why, should an official governing body act in the same manner, we’d see massive repercussions. We have even. What makes you any different?

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