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Using Google Maps? You May Be Looking at a Home-Made Map

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, April 20 2012

Public Laboratory image of WhereCamp, Stanford University (April 2011) in Google Earth

Google Earth is now using 45 maps from the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, the group announced in an e-mail. The Public Laboratory is a community which develops and applies open-source tools to environmental exploration and investigation. This includes what they call "grassroots mapping" — using relatively low-cost tools like helium balloons and Flip cameras to create satellite imagery independent of big institutions or the government, which made a high-profile appearance along the Gulf Coast after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The Public Laboratory archive includes many maps released into the public domain. Google is now incorporating those maps into Google Earth's historic imagery database and into Google Maps.

Google's Lat Long blog notes that several of the images it included from PLOTS had been created with a balloon mapping toolkit "that allows anyone with an inexpensive digital point and shoot camera, and about $100 of other parts (balloon, helium, line, soda bottle, etc.) to take photos of the ground around them."

PLOTS offers a tool called MapKnitter to then align the photos into a georeferenced image that can be used by a program such as Google Earth.

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

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wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

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The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

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tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.

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Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.

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monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.

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