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911 Call Tracking Site Stirs Concern 239

Posted by kdawson
from the they-could-at-least-have-used-a-GIF dept.
Frosty Piss writes, "This story comes from the Seattle Post-Intellegencer. For the past year, John Eberly has operated Seattle911.com, a site that until this week took real-time feeds of 911 calls from the Seattle Fire Department and plotted them on Google Maps. But on learning of Eberly's site, officials cited 'security concerns' and altered the way they display 911 calls on their Web site, changing the format from text to graphical, preventing Eberly from acquiring the raw data. (Several programmers are quoted musing how trivial it would be to work around this evasion.) Fire officials worry that allowing others to display where fire crews are on an Internet map could make things easier if terrorists were planning an attack. That logic left Eberly and others scratching their heads, as the information continues to be publicly available on the Fire Department's site. 'We're not obligated to provide this information. It's something that we did for customer service in the first place,' a Fire Department spokesperson said. So is this public information? Should the data be available to the public in real time?" The Seattle P-I story ends with a quote from Bruce Schneier: "The government is not saying, 'Hey, this data needs to be secret,' they are saying, 'This data needs to be inconvenient to get to.'"
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911 Call Tracking Site Stirs Concern

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  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:44PM (#16440217) Homepage Journal
    "But the plans were on display ..."

    "On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."

    "That's the display department."

    "With a torch."

    "Ah, well the lights had probably gone."

    "So had the stairs."

    "But look, you found the notice didn't you?"

    "Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard."
  • by skrew (111096) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:46PM (#16440237)
    They're afraid of terrorists attacking a fire?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:58PM (#16440347)
      Terrorism risk my ass. My guess as to the real concern? The politicians are afraid that people might see how damned dangerous certain parts of town (read: slums) really are, sending property values into the crapper and perhaps launching a round of White Flight. You see, it's easier to deny a problem exists (or mask the extent) than to fix it.

      All the typical poli behaviours are here on display -- denial, obfuscation, evasion and just plain old lying.
    • by mikael (484) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @09:10PM (#16440415)
      I don't about the USA, but in the UK we've got problems with neds (non-educated delinquents) setting up bonfires to lure firefighters to their neighbourhood, then throwing stones at the firecrews and vehicles, all just for fun.
      • by ctr2sprt (574731)

        It happens in the US as well, though I'm not sure how common it is. (The nature of the thing makes it really prone to urban legends.) The ones you hear about are gangs, who use guns rather than stones. They'll also call 911 and report fake medical emergencies to lure ambulances. Since most emergency crews show up with a police escort - at least partially for just this reason; I'm told that paramedics are instructed not to get out of the ambulance until the cops arrive - they also order pizza or Chinese.

        • by perlchild (582235) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @11:20PM (#16441035)
          Why is it still on the 911 site then?
          I fail to see what purpose it serves to remove the googlemaps of the same data
          I doubt that terrorists are that much less technical than the people of the seattle911.com site.
          The only reason I can see with keeping the data public(on the 911 web site, not the seattle911.com one) might be public access to information laws or some other regulatory issue. If the information is public, let seattle911.com do whatever it wants with it. If the goal is to prevent terrorism, don't MASK the information, take it off the 911 web site too.
          We aren't talking about an intranet here.
          The public servants are alrady at risk, since it's PUBLIC information.
          The only reason I can see to keep the info public, but not let seattle911.com use it, is that if seattle911.com is ad-based, and they don't want the seattle911.com to benefit for free, from this information. But in that case, that's what a cease and desist letter is for.
          If it really is that risky for the public servants, why isn't the information better protected? How is publicising the info on only one site that much less safe than on two?
      • by aussie_a (778472)
        And yet such people can still access the information they need to see if the firefighters are... already in their neighbourhood?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)
      They're afraid of terrorists attacking a fire?

      It might be possible to wait for many of the emergency vehicles to be on one side of the city and then start a fire on the other side of the city.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 14, 2006 @09:44PM (#16440567)
        Fortunately, most cities have planned for this by having *several* fire trucks.
        • by penix1 (722987)
          There are also agreements between states known as Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC). That is why you saw fire / rescue gear from around the nation responding to NY in 2001, and the Gulf states in 2005.

          B.
        • by rts008 (812749) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @01:11AM (#16441543) Journal
          Well, I don't know...as we are aware that Seattle is such a hotbed of terrorist activity.
          That's why we haven't got Bin L. yet in the mountains of over Middle East way- he's operating out of the Cascades!
          OMG! I'm crawling into my shelter here in Oklahoma right now! *sarcasm off*

          WTF? Terrorists responding to fires?- give 'em a hose and let them help fight the fires!
          We know that they would not be smart enough to use a scanner, use their ears and follow the sirens, watch the frikken news- but heaven help us if they have access to Google Earth!

          Damn, the insanity in this country is starting to drive me crazy.
      • by bmo (77928) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @09:46PM (#16440579)
        "It might be possible to wait for many of the emergency vehicles to be on one side of the city and then start a fire on the other side of the city."

        Funny, that can be done _without_ computers _or_ 911 tracking.

        These guys are just worried that someone might point to poor performance. That's all. It's entirely _cya_.

        --
        BMO
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ScrewMaster (602015)
          That's all. It's entirely _cya_.

          I'm sure that's part of it, but it's more a matter of Control Your Ass, meaning they want to control our asses insofar as we are accessing what they consider to be "their" information. It's not ... it's ours. We paid for it, and if one of us wants to present a view of that data that is more useful than the view they chose to present ... that's tough.
      • by SmurfButcher Bob (313810) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @09:51PM (#16440607) Journal
        And from TFA, this is still trivially possible. The data source is plainly available, just not easily parsed (which is a total non-issue for the short-term opportunist you describe).

        Secondly, there's no need to wait for such placement; it'd be trivial to simply engineer that situation with a few 911 calls / events of your own.

        Personally, I'd say they're offended that their "cool tool" got one-upped.
        • Secondly, there's no need to wait for such placement; it'd be trivial to simply engineer that situation with a few 911 calls / events of your own.

          Exactly. Even the Columbine guys knew how to do that already. Before their rampage, they had set up a small fire bomb in a field half a mile away from the school to tie up emergency response.

      • by Frosty Piss (770223) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @10:11PM (#16440697)
        It might be possible to wait for many of the emergency vehicles to be on one side of the city and then start a fire on the other side of the city.

        In Seattle? In any large city with widely dispersed fire and police resources? That better be one Hell of a fire if everyone in the whole fuckin' city is there...

        Anyway, many people are asking WHY someone would need this info, but that's the wrong question. The question should be "why shouldn't they have it"? And from the story, clearly they still do have it, just not from this guy's site. The city still has this info up on their site.

        And why do most people who are interested in this stuff want access to it? The same reason people buy scanners, because it's interesting to follow what's going on.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TapeCutter (624760)
          "The question should be "why shouldn't they have it"?

          The have a default answer nowadays: Terroists.

          The question is now, how is it a usefull tool to terrorists? The answer is "it's not". Terrorists are attempting to orchestrate the mayhem, this tool mearly allows them to watch the response.

          A common statergy with terrorists (eg: AQ, Isreal) is to attck twice in the same spot. Once to get the target, the second time to get the responders. AFAIK, "wait 20-30min" is not a fucking secret!
      • Except that they're not going to sit and wait for a bunch of fires to spontaneously sprout at the other side of the city, then run into another building with a match. If they really wanted to do that, they would *set* several fires at the other side of the city. And you don't need to track firetrucks to know that that's where they're going to be.
      • by hazem (472289)
        So... you get two guys and start two fires... it's totally irrelevant.

        If you want to do some kind of terrorist act where you do something in repsonse to the firemen, you simply set up the first event.
    • Actually, this is a reasonably sensible decision and it has nothing to do with terrorism (or rather, it might. "Fighting terrorism" gets people re-elected, so maybe that's what they're claiming, but there's a sane, realistic reason as well.) If you were, say, a professional burglar and you found out that an elderly woman in a rich part of town is being rushed to the hospital, wouldn't that be a wonderfully useful piece of information? Likely her husband (if she has one) will be at the hospital all day and
  • Inconvienient? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jarjarthejedi (996957) <christianpinch AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:48PM (#16440247) Journal
    Come on, does anyone really think that making the information a tiny bit harder to get is going to discourage real terrorists? Why do so many people persist in the idea that if we make the world hard to use that bad people won't be able to use it, bad people are the ones who will invest the time to learn how to work the system. A change like this does one thing, inconvieniences those people who may have found some use for this program. It doesn't stop terrorist, it doesn't help the public, it doesn't even make a good public relations story. How long before someone rebuilds the site to grab the graphics and translate them do you think? And how long after that before the govenment makes the data in those funny letters on forums at which point they may as well not even publish it. Every time I think I've grasped the limit of stupidity it moves further and further away...
    • Re:Inconvienient? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:52PM (#16440297) Homepage Journal
      "Why do so many people persist in the idea that if we make the world hard to use that bad people won't be able to use it, bad people are the ones who will invest the time to learn how to work the system."

      If this were true, then almost everything that the US govt has done to prevent terrorism would be a mistake. Oh, wait....
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      Come on, does anyone really think that making the information a tiny bit harder to get is going to discourage real terrorists?

      My ex girlfriend had this side gate on her house which was hard to open but not locked. He housemate insisted that I put a lock on it so I did. Didn't bother me because I always just stepped over the gate rather than trying to open the bloody thing. She sees a potential thief as being like herself but I think the thief is going to be more like me, ie, able to step over a 1 metre hig

    • Re:Inconvienient? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by 49152 (690909) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @11:02PM (#16440925)
      No, but it gives the naive masses the impression that the government is doing something to stop the bad guys.

      It really does not matter if it works or not.
    • by BobSutan (467781)
      Oddly enough you could have been talking about DRM and nobody would have thought twice. Same rules apply: hinders legit users, does nothing to stop piracy.
  • Why do we need it? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by aridhol (112307)
    Is it important to know, in real-time, where emergency crews are? Why? So you can chase the ambulance that much easier? To gawk as crews try to rescue people, and possibly get in the way?
    • by Free_Meson (706323) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:53PM (#16440305)
      EMS heckling is a big thing here. Lots of fun.

      You call that a tracheotomy?

      Maybe I'm spending too much time w/med students, though.
    • by Yehooti (816574) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:55PM (#16440319)
      If we're not a first responder, why do we need the info in real time? I'd agree with letting the information out, but delaying it for, say an hour or so. Not to make it inconvenient to get to, just not immediate info.
      • by doormat (63648) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @09:06PM (#16440399) Homepage Journal
        This is the most sensible solution - delay. The FAA does this with radar info, its all delayed 15 minutes. 15 minutes might be too soon for this info, but an hour seems reasonable.

        Its a shame that the people running the system are too worried about public perception and politics instead of thinking about the problem.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        From my experience, people often use this service to answer the question "what the heck are all those sirens???" For this purpose, a real time service is essential. In addition, it is a good public service to let the population know if that volley of emergency vehicles that careened past their homes are getting a cat out of a tree or chasing down an axe wielding maniac.

        The data isn't normalized so response dispatchments to the same place can be peppered throuh the data. Mapping the data greatly simplifies

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by troll -1 (956834)
        Rule of thumb in the US seems to be that information cannot be secret unless the government has a "compelling interest" to make it so. It's not up to the public to make the case that they need the information, it's up to the government to show they have a compelling interest in keeping it from them.
    • by M0b1u5 (569472) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @09:05PM (#16440387) Homepage
      >Re:Why do we need it?

      So the GPS tranceivers in emergency vehicles can provide data so that alternate routes for other road users can be made to permit safer emergency travel, and less stops and inconveniences for the remainder of road users.

      Eventually, when cars are automatic, such a feedback loop will be a natural part of the road navigation process. This will increase efficiency, decrease traffic congestions and decrease travel times for all concerned.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Wilson_6500 (896824)
      So your travel-aide computer can automatically alert you to the fact that your planned route is blocked by a huge accident very soon after the acciden occurs?
    • by aussie_a (778472)
      If they were worried about people having the information, they wouldn't release it in the first place.
  • 911 feeds? (Score:2, Insightful)

    If this was just for fires, I don't think it is incredibly bad, but my first thought on seeing the headline was, "why are they releasing 911 data in the first place?" I mean, were they posting medical emergencies, too? That is kind of creepy.

    But on the other hand, if they were releasing the information, I don't see anything wrong with someone actually using the data. The shock to me is that they were releasing it publicly...in real time to begin with.

    Transporter_ii
  • While I think this specific case is somewhat asinine, the general rational has always been that enough public information, when compiled, can be considered "sensitive" or "classified".

    Like that one kid's thesis detailing the layout of internet backbone cables, or back in the day when basic nuclear theory was available in public texts, but was still considered a gov't secret.
    • by ScentCone (795499)
      While I think this specific case is somewhat asinine, the general rational has always been that enough public information, when compiled, can be considered "sensitive" or "classified".

      You don't have to have a lot of information to reach that point ... just the identity of one undercover LEO is enough to jeopardize him, his team, or even everyone that might be a victim of what that officer is in the middle of trying to catch/prevent. Clandestine activities are part and parcel of some law enforcement and d
  • by LionKimbro (200000) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:53PM (#16440303) Homepage
    I was in a metro [metrokc.gov] bus and wanted to take a picture of some trees outside. The bus driver told me, "Hey, you can't take pictures in here."

    I asked, "Why not?!"

    He said, "I'm actually supposed to report you to the police, if you do. Terrorism."

    "What are they going to do, reverse engineer the bus timetables from photographic evidence? This can't possibly make us any safer."

    He replied, "Well, who's to say."

    Who's to say indeed.

    Absolutely absurd.

    Note that busview [busview.org] will give you the location of all Metro busses in real time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wish bot (265150)
      I travelled around Serbia about 10 years ago while they were still 'Communist'. There were often signs around roads, bridges, towns, etc, with 'No Photography' symbols. At the time I really appreciated that we were free from that kind of paranoia and ridiculous restriction in the 'west'.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 15, 2006 @12:28AM (#16441363)
      At least in Canada you can take pictures of crap. Yes, you can take pictures *from* a plane! A regular, passanger jet plane!

      Not being allowed to take pics used to be part of the "evil" communist russia. Now, it is part of the paranoid america. Congratulations americans, you are slowly turning into the same totalitarian regime like soviet union. All under the umbrela of fear and "security". And the sad part is no one is ready to stand up against this cancerous mutation of your constitution.

  • by Max Threshold (540114) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:55PM (#16440325)
    ...about the Second Amendment.

    "The government is not saying, 'Hey, this data needs to be secret,' they are saying, 'This data needs to be inconvenient to get to.'"

    Now they just need to apply the same logic to their lists of gun owners.

  • by GroeFaZ (850443) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:55PM (#16440327)
    I don't know seattle911.com, so I don't know if it's absolutely critical to have the data in real-time. But if not, just make the data available in the convenient format, but an hour or so later. As far-fetched as the terrorist scenario may sound, with this solution everybody could be happy, no? Or is this just another subtle reminder of the never-ending War on Terrer?
  • by Kid Zero (4866) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @08:57PM (#16440343) Homepage Journal
    So the educated Pyro can wait until everyone is else where, hop on the motorbike, and start five, ten fires and really tie up the fire department. Great.

    You could do that to begin with, but now you can plot your course to string everyone out better and more efficently.
  • In many places 911 calls are public record. Also, when the police are called (even if it's not 911), those reports are often public record.

    I'm not sure if it applies to this Seattle or not, but it should be easy enough to find out. Here there are several public web sites where you can look at current fire/ems/traffic activity [lancaster.pa.us] or city police incident reports [lancasterpolice.com]. Both sites contain information available to the public by other means, and providing it on a web site helps to cut down on paper information reque


  • There is no way that 911 call information should be available at anything approaching real-time data.

    They want to make the information available for customer service purposes then good, put it on a 24hr delay.

    • by labrinid (68540)
      It seems the image version is for current day data only, everything else is available in plain HTML, is still searchable, etc. There is a vast database going back to 1992!

      Check out http://www2.seattle.gov/fire/realTime911/getDatePu bTab.asp [seattle.gov]

      cheers,
      alex
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Cheapy (809643)
      Why shouldn't it be?
    • There is no way that 911 call information should be available at anything approaching real-time data.

      Why? Because of some undifferentiated and vague idea of some bad outcome? What about a worse outcome because somebody didn't know about a fire at their house? What problem are you trying to solve with secrecy?
  • 'This data needs to be inconvenient to get to.'

    Isn't that exactly what 'secret' data is meant to be. From what I understand of basic information theory is that you cannot completely secure data, there will always - eventually - be a path to it, information security's job is to make it so inconvenient for an unauthorised person to get to, that by the time they reach it, it will be worthless. They only to permanently stop someone from learning a piece of data is to totally destroy it. (this is why encryption

  • The standard big bad wolf that was used anytime someome wanted to stop you from doing something completely reasonable in the US used to be "Sorry, but due to liability, you cant...".

    That implied some kind of financial damage if you did not listen.

    Now the standard has changed to "terrorist threat". Imagine being sent to GitBay, shipped to Syria and tortured, and imprisoned forever. That is a hell of a lot more efficient.

    I have noticed that in the US nobody dear to
    1. Cross the line into the garage to look at
    • 1) Why would I? I've never met my neighbors, and I don't really care what they do on their property. That's a problem of loss of community and has nothing to do with liability or terrorism.

      2) Most shopping carts have a place to put your child, speaking as a former retail employee I suggest you use it. Most people who let their kids ride in the basket of the cart seem to forget what happens when they take their eyes of of it and the child stands up and moves, shifting the weight of the cart that only had thr
      • 1) Why would I? I've never met my neighbors, and I don't really care what they do on their property. That's a problem of loss of community and has nothing to do with liability or terrorism.

        He's talking about a service station. "Garage" is British for service station. When you're getting work done on your car, most service stations have a sign that says something like, "Due to insurance regulations, customers are not allowed on the shop floor."

  • Or is it just that it's no ones business who was in an accident other than the parties envolved? If I wrecked on I-81 (that's the closest highway in PA for me) who needs to know that? And don't say it's for traffic either, most radio stations do traffic on the hour.
    • by Nataku564 (668188)
      Public emergency responses should be public knowledge. If you want to call a private service (Bell Ambulance comes to mind) to come and rescue you to keep your information private, then do so. However, I, as a taxpayer, want to know what is being done with my money, so I can supervise it.
      • Public emergency responses should be public knowledge.

        Do you want your boss (and everyone else inthe office) to know that you were a victim of spousal abuse last night? Or would you rather keep that to yourself?
  • "Security Reasons" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by guisar (69737) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @10:14PM (#16440709) Homepage
    I was just at Heathrow over the weekend- waiting for my wife to get back from the duty free in Terminal 3. It's one of the world's crappiest terminals- not even chairs at the gate. SO there I am waiting, sitting on the only space available, the floor. Here comes some guard saying I can't sit there- "security reasons". So WTF am I supposed to do, call to my genie wife to bring me back into her bottle with her? "Security Reasons" is the catch phrase of power-hungry bureaucrats everywhere, it means, "I'd like to push you around and you'd don't dare even question me when I give you even an unreasonable command on a whim". I got a headache when I read about the RFID tags at the Hungarian airport. Security is used by all the worlds' despots as the rationale for their staying in power. No kidding Capt Obvious you say? Well, what's the best way to push aside this reason without being labeled treasonous?
    • Say this in a bright and chipper voice: "Oh! Do you have a chair that I could use to wait here?" Make it clear that you have reason to be here, and that his only purpose in life is to make it easier for you to wait, not less easy.

  • HIPAA (Score:2, Informative)

    by Kerne (42289)
    This has nothing to do with terrorism and just a small bit with security. I'm a Firefighter/Paramedic in Northern Florida. Most large incidents are picked up by local news agencies within hours and the information widely broadcast.

    Publically disseminating private emergency call information in realtime can compromise a fire scene investigation and open medical responders up to HIPAA http://http//www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa/ [http] violation lawsuits. A patient's PHI (Personal/Private Health Information) includes any
  • Terrorists, huh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ozwald (83516) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @10:22PM (#16440741)

    By the same logic, websites that show traffic conditions [wa.gov] should be shut down too. Well, ya, terrorists can make sure they don't get stuck in parking lot on the I-5.

    Oz

  • How much "public" information should be easily accessible from any keyboard in the world? I find that it is hard to argue for privacy-laws that protect one's private information when we simultaneously demand that every piece of government data be available from any keyboard with internet access. The problem is not whether or not a "terrorist" is going to get ahold of this information, the problem is that maybe the person who's house is burning down feels like his misfortune is a personal, private, or commu
  • Would be really funny if they just put some code in to generate images from it like this (I've seen captcha's done like this): /gen_image.php?street=1_infinite_loop&zip=95014&ca ll=police
    • Oh come on, they're not going to send a 911 police reponse around to Apple just because of some stock irregularities.
  • Country Fire Authority [vic.gov.au] and Department of Sustainability and Environment [vic.gov.au] are two pages I have constantly open
  • I am John Eberly (Score:5, Informative)

    by seattle911 (1013733) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @11:57PM (#16441205)
    Just for everyone information, my server was down earlier due to a rogue node on my VPS server (great timing by my host), not slashdotting. Here is my blog post on this issue that started some of this http://blog.eberly.org/2006/10/12/worlds-worst-use -of-a-jpeg [eberly.org] Here are the comments at Reddit. http://reddit.com/info/lxbt/comments [reddit.com] Reddit sent over 30k hits in a short period to my server and it handled it fine, it just seems every Saturday somebody on my server gobbles up all the resources. I really will never recommend VPS from this host to anyone.
  • Getting tired... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lionchild (581331) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @12:13AM (#16441279) Journal
    [rant]

    I suspect that I'm not the only one whose getting tired of hearing about taking this or taking that away because we're concerned about Terrorists. Terrorism is real, it sucks rocks, but we're living in those times where conventional wars apparently are a thing of the past. We have to get over it and get on with life.

    How long are we going to let FUD hang over us and control us? If there's a non-terrorism reason, like you've got alot of people using the data to follow the emergency services and get in the way while gawking at what's going on, then yes, change the policy. Don't throw up a nebulous excuse that 'terrorists will use it!' Then we all go duck and cover and hope we don't get blown up.

    Too many people have fought and died for our freedoms. Are we so frightened now, that those lives are meaningless, and we should give up our hard-won freedoms for the illusion of safety?

    [/rant]

    Sorry. I'm just getting tired of it.
  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @12:44AM (#16441427) Homepage Journal
    You can't pop down the street to the cafe and surf the net to see how many hours it will be before the fire truck you paid for with your Seattle taxes actually shows up.

    Especially if you're blind or vision-disabled, as graphics won't work properly with their new system.

    So, if you're a blind Seattleite, it's NOT an "improvement".
  • by madajb (89253) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @02:52AM (#16441955)
    The kind of thinking on display here frightens the hell out of me.
    "If we're not a first responder, why do we need the info in real time? "
    "'ll have to start out by saying I'm amazed such information was ever available"
    "Is it important to know, in real-time, where emergency crews are? "
    "There is no way that 911 call information should be available at anything approaching real-time data"

    This is completely ass-backwards.
    There should be no need for me to prove that data, _any_ government data, should be available to me.
    The government needs to prove there is a compelling reason for them not to make it available.

    This sort of data serves some useful purposes and some not so useful purposes, in terms of tracking allocation of resources, seeing where hotspots are, knowing where that firetruck that just roared past you is going, and yes, pure entertainment.

    The governments "counter-argument" consists of bogeymen in a closet.

    The idea that anyone could come down on side of the government in this case is, to me, a sad commentary on the willingness of the populace to accept any old excuse that limits their access to the workings of their government.

    -ajb

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