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<nettime> India: Use a digital map without license: go to jail
Patrice Riemens on Wed, 1 Jun 2016 11:41:47 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> India: Use a digital map without license: go to jail

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Save Your Right to Use the Map: Geospatial Information Regulation Bill 
Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF)

The Ministry of Home Affairs has released the draft Geospatial
Information Regulation Bill 2016 on 4 May 2016. According to the
draft, which is up for suggestions and comments till 2 June 2016, this
bill intends to regulate acquisition, dissemination, publication or
distribution of geospatial data to protect security, sovereignty and
integrity of India.

The draft defines geospatial data as “geospatial imagery or data
acquired through space or aerial platforms such as satellite,
aircrafts, airships, balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles including
value addition; or graphical or digital data depicting natural or
man-made physical features, phenomenon or boundaries of the earth
or any information related thereto including surveys, charts, maps,
terrestrial photos referenced to a co-ordinate system and having
attributes”. This definition is so wide, that it includes anything
and everything, to understand how it applies to our ordinary lives,
geospatial data can also mean: sharing our location among loved ones
over the internet, using GPS to navigate through traffic, checking
in on Facebook, hailing a cab through an online app, ordering food
online, taking photos during our travels etc. In addition, geospatial
data here does not limit to digital forms, hard copies of maps,
atlases, particulars of coordinates also count.

Now, what the bill is asking us to do before we share or use any type
of geospatial information, e.g. sharing your location over WhatsApp if
you’re stuck in an emergency situation, is apply for a license with
the Security Vetting Authority (SVA) and get each record of geospatial
information vetted by the SVA. The SVA will then take a minimum of
three months to may or may not provide you with the required license.

The bill does not only apply to Indian citizens living in India
and outside, it also applies to foreigners in India. In addition,
geospatial information acquired in the past, before the bill has been
enforced, also requires an individual to hold a licence to legally use
the said information. At this point, one wonders what happens if they
use this geospatial information without a license, i.e. illegally or
happen to acquire, view, draw the Indian map depicting any perceived
wrong territorial boundaries either in hard copy or digitally. The
answer is, they either get fined Rs 1 crore (10 Million) to 100 crores
(1 Billion) or jailed for seven years.

What the drafters do not realise is that the draft is in absolute
contradiction with the Government of India’s (GoI) wonderful
promises of development, that include initiatives such as Digital
India Plan or Start Up India plan and the Open Government Data online
platform. They also do not seem to understand how the internet or
geospatial information function in real time as well as the ever
expanding usage of the two. The long-term implications on the work of
academics, scientific or social researches, civil society, IT tool
developers, humanitarian or relief workers to name a few, have not
been considered. The passage of this bill will give the GoI powers
to infringe on our privacy, perform surveillance and monitoring of
our personal data to make sure compliance with the regulations.
Moreover, the security agencies will have the powers to confiscate any
data considered illegal, according to the bill. Ordinary, innocent
citizens will have to bear unnecessary restrictions without having
any intention to harm the security, sovereignty and integrity of the
country. We will not be able use the Right to Information Act, to seek
information either, because that would also require us to possess
certain geospatial data, either physically or electronically.

In reality, this bill will push the map based, geolocation service
applications and businesses like Ola Cabs, Uber etc. to end their
operations because getting each and every geospatial record licensed
and vetted is impossible.

With this petition, we urge you to help us raise support to demand
that the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill 2016 be dropped and
draft the bill in line with progammes like Digital India and Startup
India, which would encourage Indian citizens and startups to use
geospatial data in everyday lives and create businesses that serve
India. Send your comments and suggestions to the Ministry of Home
Affairs via email, on this address: jsis {AT} nic.in before 2 June 2016.
The more the number of emails, the greater an impact we'll make.

The passage of this bill will have a huge negative impact on
education, economic and recreational opportunities, in addition to
putting unreasonable restrictions and penalties on innocent civilians.

In this regard, we request you to sign this petition and pass this
petition to your family and friends.

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