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back to article Licenses blocking third-party emergency warnings

Last weekend, a fire-storm in the Perth Hills destroyed 55 homes, and today, Victoria is facing fire conditions close to those experienced on “Black Saturday” in 2009 (having already suffered power cuts in the heatwave). In such conditions, emergency services do their best to distribute warning information via their Websites and …

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Mushroom

<sigh> This is why IT bods should never get to set public policy.

For the record, the govt. is perfectly correct here. This is safety information and there are time-tested methods of distributing public safety warnings. Methods that are work and are managed so that people don't get mixed/conflicting messages.

And you want to hand control - and it would be control - to an advertising agency for what ? so you can get free map updates on fires that are nowhere near you ?

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For the record, the govt. is perfectly correct here. This is safety information and there are time-tested methods of distributing public safety warnings. Methods that are work and are managed so that people don't get mixed/conflicting messages.

And increasingly, it's the Governments that are turning away from those time-tested methods.

These days, there's a big push to using the Internet. I say it has its place. Licensing of that data is a big issue, and it's an issue I face myself, as someone who provides emergency communications in such events.

Restrictive licensing prevents someone such as myself, sending a map of affected areas to a station in the area who is cut off from traditional network services. (i.e. via slow-scan television or packet radio instead of email or television) I suppose if taken literally, these licenses prevent me from telling someone: "Don't take some road, it's closed due to floods". This is not helpful.

Even if I was allowed to say what roads were closed or where the fire was located; by the time it has filtered through about 4 sets of ears, brains and mouths, who knows what will come out the other end? The old story of the military unit sending the message "Send re-inforcements, we're going to advance!" getting back to HQ as "Send three and four pence, we're going to a dance!", comes to mind.

Contrast this to say me, taking a screenshot of a webpage depicting the affected areas, a dump of a spreadsheet; transmitting that to someone out in the field and them printing off a few copies/relaying to others. They get a more-or-less verbatim copy of what was on the government authority's site.

The government need to decide if the public should have this information or not. If they're worried about it getting into the wrong hands, then they should keep it secret; and we'll collectively run around like headless chooks causing even more mayhem.

I say: let people re-broadcast the material. If presented to the public in any form, it will be rebroadcasted one way or the other, so it's pointless putting any means to stop it. Doing so does more harm than good.

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Anonymous Coward

You can use the data to issue any warning you like. The licence simply prevents you using it to make money.

Given that Google is a foreign corporation who is on record as paying little or no tax I would think that the ordinary taxpayer would be reluctant to hand over tax-funded data. This is something that is lost on those who's horizon extends only as far as the latest shiny shiny.

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Letting others retransmit the data could result in confusion and potentially loss of life and/or property. The Newspapers and online news sources would then have a field day with this about how the government doesn't understand open data.

You can't have it both ways.

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Silver badge

Yep, we can't have randoms retransmitting data. Best put websites like the Bureau of Meterology behind a paywall and prosecute anyone rebroadcasting the storm warnings for any reason without explicit written permission.

The information is obviously too important to be released to the general public, as a note on the CFA website saying residence of town ABC should leave and that residents of XYZ have left it too late now — may lead to too much confusion.

As you say, you can't have it both ways.

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``Fair dealing'' in U.S.?

Check Wikipedia's comment on fair dealing in the U.S. It has nothing to do with copyright law.

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I cpuldn't give a damn if anybody makes money from it. Information saves lives, and if the government can't deliver it, and manifestly it can't, then let others do it.

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Accuracy and Completeness Counts

It's not good enough to know where some of the fires are. You need to know where they all are if you decide to leave because the fire is bearing down (I know you shouldn't leave the decision that late, but what other critical service is the internet file map providing?)

Some half-baked social media attempt at providing a partial map that was accurate 6 hours ago is worse than useless.

For the record, the Victorian CFA site worked continuously, if somewhat slowly, throughout the 2009 emergency. I know, I was watching it very carefully!

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Eric

http://eric.csiro.au/ seems to provide the Victorian and WA fire data under whatever terms the data is licensed in those states.

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VX

http://maps.cfs.sa.gov.au/ looks nice.

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It's not just licensing for Victoria

In Victoria it's not as simple as just licensing, there are legislative issues coming out of the changes made after Black Saturday. There's more on the issues here:

http://www.itnews.com.au/News/361417,the-curious-case-of-googles-missing-victorian-fire-data.aspx

The important thing to note is that the Victorian state government is working with Google on how best to satisfy the requirements and has provided them with a development feed of data so they can do the integration whilst the legal side gets worked out.

All the best,

Chris

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