Public Protection and Ethical Dissemination of Geospatial Data - Social and Legal Aspects


Geospatial Information (GI) is now in a paradigm of mass consumption. GI is accessible by the general public from various sources, is acquired using a large range of methods and produced by a number of data producers. Democratization of software and/or GIS, combined to the increased accessibility of GI caused a tremendous increase in the applications fields for which GI is mainly used to support decisions on operational or strategic levels. This large democratization of GI and related technologies raise important social and legal concerns. First, the level of reliability or quality of data raise important considerations related to legal liability, specifically when the data is of poor quality or is faulty on one of its important aspects. Secondly, GI collections related to human movements (or the equipment they use) can potentially severely harm Canadian citizens’ privacy. Thirdly, GI collection requires significant investments in terms of work and funding data producers want to protect using copyright. However, the analysis of the current state of the law and jurisprudence raises a vulnerability of Canadian data producers regarding the protection of their investments.


The main scientific objective of this project was to develop innovatives solutions to evaluate GI quality and contribute to its responsible commercialization and hence achieve an healthy protection of the public.

More specifically, the project aimed at:

    (1) developing management principles to decrease or eliminate the risks of disasters or invasion of privacy in addition to maximizing the protection of the investments leading to GI products,
    (2) producing and testing new types of documents about quality and certification mechanisms,
    (3) identifying and recording, on a public Web site, a large number of cases of inappropriate usage of GI in addition to examples of good practices,
    (4) conducting a survey amongst Canadian users (governments, industry, etc.) to identify their needs in terms of information and/or documents about quality,
    (5) defining a theoretical framework for the new paradigm of collective production of GI now made possible with the geospatial mashup services,
    (6) developing a method allowing GI users to identify the most appropriate data for their needs and hence reduce, a priori, the risks of misuse.

Project Website

The projec and its results are detailed on the project website. You will also find there a considerable number of examples of incidents involving geographic information.

Want to know more?

Marc Gervais, Ph.D.
Project Leader, Département des sciences géomatiques, Université Laval
Rodolphe Devillers, Ph.D.
Deputy Project Leader, Department of Geography, Memorial University of Newfoundland