Chris Osborne posted a comment to an earlier entry drawing our attention to a MapTube project mapping crime in London. This deserves a fuller article as it demonstrates a number of interesting points.
1. MapTube itself is worth a mention. This initiative from UCL’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) is a great demonstrator of the power of map-based information. There is a mass of interesting information and tools behind MapTube with the GeoVue project of particular interest. The GMapCreator software that has been created as part of this is useful for Google Maps mashers.
2. Privacy has come up as an issue for the Power of Information agenda. We have set ourselves the task of only dealing with data that is not personal. In most cases the distinction is clear, but there are areas such as crime mapping where there is some uncertainty about whether publishing detailed information would have implications in terms of data protection law. The point to consider is the extent to which individuals, especially victims, can be identified when details of individual crime incidents are shown. This quote from the Data Protection Act 1998 tells us when data has to be regarded as personal:
“personal data” means data which relate to a living individual who can be identified—
(a) from those data, or
(b) from those data and other information which is in the possession of, or is likely to come into the possession of, the data controller,
The issue for some uses of apparently anonymous public data is in this second clause, i.e. does it relate to a real person when the data is combined with other information. The quantity of data now available online and the very power of Web 2.0 technologies makes it increasingly likely that data can be linked up to identify an individual.
The MapTube crime map links through pins to published newspaper articles which name individual crime victims. In the cases shown on the map, the victims are tragically deceased and therefore outside the specific definition of personal data, but this does provide a graphic illustration of the general phenomenon of linkage of crimes to victims that is worrying the regulators.
Richard Allan, Task Force Chair