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911 Call Tracking Site Stirs Concern 239

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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