Ethical GEO

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Elizabeth Fernandez:

"As with many new technologies, ethics are often discussed after the fact. A new program called EthicalGEO, sponsored by the American Geographical Society (AGS), encourages people to start dialoging about the ethics of geospatial technologies present in our lives. This program, AGS in partner with Omidyar Network, will name seven EthicalGEO Fellows, awarding them a prize of $7,500." (


Elizabeth Fernandez:

"The ethical side of mapping is often overlooked, although knowledge of the location of people and things is becoming an increasingly large part of how companies work. Many times, ethical issues involve privacy and how our data are controlled. GPS tracking of our phones or cars can be used by companies to gain information about you and your habits. Satellite data, which can have resolution down to 0.41 m (or 16 inches), can give companies or governments insights into our neighborhoods and backyards. Your credit card transactions are often geocoded. Augmented reality mapping can see into our homes. Self driving cars or technology like Google Street View are mapping our streets. And the Internet of Things has a huge geospatial mapping component.

Other times, the ethical issue arises in what to do with the data. Geospatial technologies sometimes have a humanitarian element with the ability to track refugees or monitor the damage to buildings and infrastructure after a hurricane or earthquake. Satellites can map out forest fires or monitor climate change, or can map out locations of mineral deposits, poor water quality, or migratory patterns of animals." (