Science Bytes

Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016 not feasible: further review imperative

New Delhi, May 9 (G’nY News Service): The draft Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016 that has been put in the public domain by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India for suggestions overlooks all sorts of open or private data sharing.

The Bill aims to ‘regulate the acquisition, dissemination, publication and distribution of geospatial information of India. It is likely to affect the security, sovereignty and integrity of India and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto’. As per the draft bill, ‘geospatial information’ means geospatial imagery or data acquired through space or aerial platforms such as satellite, aircrafts, airships, balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles including value addition. It also includes 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. The Bill stipulates that:

  • No person shall acquire geospatial imagery or data including value addition of any part of India either through any space or aerial platforms such as satellite, aircrafts, airships, balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles or terrestrial vehicles, or any other means whatsoever.
  • Every person who has already acquired any geospatial imagery or data of any part of India including value addition prior to coming of this Act into effect, shall within one year from the commencement of this Act, make an application for retaining such geospatial information and grant of license thereof.
  • No person shall continue possession of geospatial information of India, after rejection of the application by the Security Vetting Authority or after dismissal of appeal, by the Appellate Authority or the High Court or the Supreme Court.
  • No person shall disseminate or allow visualization of any geospatial information of India either through internet platforms or online services, or publish or distribute any geospatial information of India in any electronic or physical form.
  • No person shall, in any manner, make use of, disseminate, publish or distribute any geospatial information of India, outside India, without prior permission from the Security Vetting Authority.
  • No person shall depict, disseminate, publish or distribute any wrong or false topographic information of India including international boundaries through internet platforms or online services or in any electronic or physical form.

 

The government has also formulated the Remote sensing Data Policy in 2011, and has been working on a National Geospatial Policy too. It is not clear whether the current Bill in discussion is in tandem with these policies or not.

The definition of Geospatial Information in the Bill would include having a license to take a photograph of the earth from the window of an aircraft and taking a geo-tagged image will be termed as geospatial information.

At a time when creating and distributing maps is extremely easy, would it be feasible for the Indian government to enforce Geospatial Information Regulation Bill? Considering the Bill is passed, real time geospatial information will not be available to users. It is likely to affect Digital India, Smart City Initiatives and several startup initiatives.

Many companies use Geospatial Information for their apps such as taxi services, courier services, e-retailers or hotel room aggregators, with the licensing cost being passed on to these apps, the cost of these services would go up.

Indian investigators of 2008 Mumbai attack suspect that the terrorists were shown their targets on apps like Google Earth. Are we under the impression that this Bill will help stop such happenings, unless one restricts all geospatial data, as the terrorist can target any low security place and cause maximum damage to national security, life and property.

This Bill may need further review. The Indian government can look at alternative policy to remove sensitive information from geospatial data and rather than the regressive bill.

Story by:
Ashok Mallik,
Former Director,
National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation,
Kolkata.
Ashok Sir 

 

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