partial recall

a blog of ideas, links, and musings.

Armchair Reconnaissance


One of my interests is information culture – are people generally willing or unwilling to share information? In a corporate or military setting, reasons for hoarding information might be perfectly justified. Corporations do not want to make public information that might be used by competitors. The military may not want its adversaries to know of its capabilities and strategies.

Internet and software-savvy persons (e.g., social software users, open source software developers) tend to advocate information sharing. Indeed, an information sharing culture often breeds knowledge and innovation. Nonetheless, some people refuse to share information, for one reason or another. Some people feel that their job security rests on being seen as an expert. If the information they possess is shared, then perhaps their job won’t be seen as necessary.

Although I understand the validity of both the need for information security and information sharing, I feel we need to be ever so careful with how we use the proliferation of social software that has grown in the last few years.

For example, I absolutely love the Flickr service. I use it mostly to share pictures with friends and family. However, if I so choose, I can share pictures with virtual strangers from all over the world. Consider the following picture:

Secret Service Training Facility

U.S. Secret Service Training Facility, MD

There’s been a recent fascination with Memory Mapping, the process of identifying satellite photos of places one is familiar with, and then identifying specific landmarks with notations.

What makes this photo interesting is that it is a screen capture of a U.S. Secret Service training facility in Maryland. I used a publically available satellite imaging service, in this case Google Maps (see also Terraserver & Microsoft Terraserver USA), to locate the site I was familiar with.

I assume that if the images are provided by the USGS, then they can be used freely by anyone. However, now that GPS devices are readily available and image services offer coordinates for specific locations, how much easier might it be for armchair vigilantes to perform malicious acts? I’m sure some of the images are sanitized or scrubbed, but what if some classified locations are missed?

Information sharing is the cornerstone of the social software scene and is essential in open source development. However, these persons who follow the “information sharing” credo must be careful to understand the local and federal laws they abide by, and understand that sharing isn’t always a good thing.

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