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Indian GPS Cartographers Charged As Terrorists 269

Posted by timothy
from the well-lookie-here dept.
chrb writes "Following on from the discussion about Apple disabling GPS in Egyptian iPhones, we have a new case of the conflict between the traditional secrecy of government, and the widening availability of cheap, accurate GPS devices around the world. On 5th December, two software engineers employed by Biond Software in India were arrested for mapping highways using vehicle based GPS devices. Further evidence against the pair emerged when it was found that a laptop they had been using in the car contained some photos of the local airforce base. The company claims they had been commissioned by Nokia Navigator to create maps of local roads and terrain. Following an investigation by the Anti Terrorist Squad of Gujarat the cartographers have now been charged with violating the Official Secrets Act and will remain in custody."
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Indian GPS Cartographers Charged As Terrorists

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  • Why is this article title red?
    • Re:Wat? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 18, 2008 @05:57PM (#26165941)

      Why is this article title red?

      *Sigh* This question keeps getting asked, so I feel duty-bound to inform you of the true answer.

      It's a test of your sexuality; only people who enjoy performing sexual acts with four-legged mammals of various equine species see it as red- it looks green to the rest of us.

      There- now I don't expect to see anyone asking that question again. :)

      P.S. If there's anyone out there who sees it as purple with yellow stripes, please contact me *immediately*.

  • by jeffmeden (135043) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @05:14PM (#26165299) Homepage Journal

    "You are in violation of the Official Secrets Act, you are under arrest."

    "The official secrets act? What's that?"

    "An official secret. Now put your hands behind your back. You have the right to remain ignorant of your crimes. You have the right to a low quality attorney. And you have the right to not ask any more stupid questions..."

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "You are in violation of the Official Secrets Act, you are under arrest."

      Correction: That's the Official Secrets Act of 1923.

      From TFA, here's what got led to the charges:

      The laptop contained Army personnel marching at Wagah border, video recording of a bus headed from India to Lahore, clipping of Jamnagar airport that is also used by Air Force fighter planes.

      "Their digital camera too had clippings of some prohibited spots - a photo of Jamnagar airport's main gate, boundary walls and also buildings. The two

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      You shouldn't have been modded as funny, since its the truth.

  • by nightfire-unique (253895) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @05:17PM (#26165325)

    Governments spend billions of dollars and many years building up their credibility. Every time the justice system fails, that credit is lost. In time, if corrective measures aren't taken, the justice department finds itself bankrupt - people have zero respect for the law (because it is corrupt), and much contempt for the law. Society becomes lawless.

    And not just for the commoner - government workers break the law as well, and for the same reason. Lack of respect.

    I posit that debiting the "justice account" by making examples of people, we (regardless of which country) fundamentally damage society and lay burden on those who will follow. It is immoral, and must be stopped.

    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday December 18, 2008 @05:45PM (#26165807)
      You know, before you mock the Indian government here, it should be noted that there *ARE* Pakistani spies and terrorists in India. And this sort of thing is exactly the kind of behavior you would expect out of them (particularly with the recent Indian/Pakistani tensions, the recent terrorist attack, and the possibility of an Indian airstrike against Pakistan's intelligence office). It may be a rush to judgment to condemn them, but it may also be a rush to judgment to just assume that they're just innocent mapmakers who happen to have extensive pictures of Indian air force bases too.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by russotto (537200)

      Governments spend billions of dollars and many years building up their credibility. Every time the justice system fails, that credit is lost. In time, if corrective measures aren't taken, the justice department finds itself bankrupt - people have zero respect for the law (because it is corrupt), and much contempt for the law. Society becomes lawless.

      Not all governments. Some governments have wisely looked ahead, realized this process is inevitable, and saved the initial outlay. Modern cases in point are M

  • Judge Moron (Score:4, Insightful)

    by should_be_linear (779431) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @05:17PM (#26165341)
    How about Google Maps having photos of same roads already for *years*. Made by flying holy cow.
  • Ummm...that first link doesn't work at all. Way to go editors.

    Anyways, this really sucks for them. The article doesn't really say what they are being charged with or why having maps is such a bad thing. Lord knows I'd hate to be "grilled" for simply collecting data. Very scary.

    • by gordguide (307383)

      '... Lord knows I'd hate to be "grilled" for simply collecting data. ..."

      Fastest way I know to "Get Grilled".

      Don't ask so many questions, you'll be allright.

  • RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sta7ic (819090) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @05:22PM (#26165431)
    The Times of India article claims that the two are being held and charged more for having film of an airport and an air force base, than they are for collecting GPS data. Using a DUI for an analogy, the poor lane control would be the GPS dish, and the film of the air facilities the half-empty beer bottle.
  • Wait a sec... (Score:4, Informative)

    by UltraMathMan (1139987) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @05:25PM (#26165485)
    According to TFA they were arrested for "snooping around Jamnagar" which according to Wikipedia "has shot to prominence as Reliance Industries, India's largest private company, established the world's largest [oil] refinery near Moti Khavdi village."

    So very basically, this seems akin so someone driving in a car, decked out with electronics, around say, a nuclear power plant in the U.S. Not saying the charges are or aren't appropriate and there's no information as to how close to said refinery they actually were, but given the area through which they were traveling they should have expected some attention.

    Wikipedia Article [wikipedia.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 18, 2008 @05:28PM (#26165549)

    I'm an Indian. Buildings and installations covered under official secrets act have a clear sign that says "photography is prohibited and you can be charged under the act for violation".

    So if they did photograph the air force base then they basically broke the law and have been charged. What's the problem?

    Try taking photos of a secret Army, Air Force installation in US and see what happens ... guarantee the same result.

    There is nothing to see here ... move on.

    • by QuasiEvil (74356) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @05:39PM (#26165717)

      Actually, no, you can legally photograph nearly everything you can see from public land in the US. There are a few places where they're known to lack a sense of humor about it, but almost everything is fair game. (That said, there are a few rare restrictions on such things.)

      Now understanding that this is the law in your country, and it is (apparently) clearly posted, well... yeah, they broke the law and got caught. As usual, /. distorts the story.

      • by radish (98371) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @06:21PM (#26166241) Homepage

        Not so rare any more. Pretty much all the tunnels & bridges in NYC are "no photo" zones. Take a look at this entertaining gallery for examples [nowis.com].

        • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @10:51PM (#26168639)

          Not so rare any more. Pretty much all the tunnels & bridges in NYC are "no photo" zones. Take a look at this entertaining gallery for examples.

          All part of the War on Photographers. [popphoto.com]

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by instarx (615765)

          Not so rare any more. Pretty much all the tunnels & bridges in NYC are "no photo" zones.

          Not true. These no-photo rules were imposed in the security-frenzy that was NYC immediately after 9/11. When things calmed down objections were raised by citizens and the rules were rescinded. In 2007, revised rules about commercial street photography in NYC specifically allowed photogrphy by ordinary citizens and visitors.

          That does not mean that a lot of people, including cops, don't know or care that the rules w

      • by gonz (13914) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @06:35PM (#26166439)

        Actually, no, you can legally photograph nearly everything you can see from public land in the US. There are a few places where they're known to lack a sense of humor about it, but almost everything is fair game.

        A few years ago I took a tourist photo of the Pentagon in D.C. from just outside the metro stop, which is pretty far away from the building. A security officer came and asked me to delete the photo from my camera. I explained that it wasn't a digital camera, but rather a disposable film camera. He said that officially he should make me throw it away, but instead allowed me to go on condition that I didn't take any more photos.

        You're right that the law allows people to take tourist photos. But where "security" is concerned, it apparently doesn't matter what the law says.

        -Gonz

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Rastl (955935)

          The husband likes taking pictures of industrial structures as reference for his model railroad. His job was taking him all over the country at this point.

          He was on a road when he saw an interesting building he decided to photograph. So he did. Very soon after that a rent-a-cop came puffing up the hill and told him he couldn't do that.

          Next he was demanding that my husband give him the camera. Uh, no. Then he demanded that all the photos (including all the other ones that had nothing to do with this situ

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by macshit (157376)

          A few years ago I took a tourist photo of the Pentagon in D.C. from just outside the metro stop, which is pretty far away from the building. A security officer came and asked me to delete the photo from my camera.

          Keep in mind that "a security offer asked" and "it is the law" are very, very, different things.

          Sometimes they're simply full of shit and trying to intimidate you into doing something they have no legal power to enforce.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by houghi (78078)

          Many years ago I took a picture inside a mall and a rent-a-cop came up to me and explained that I was not allowed to take photos. When I told him I already had taken all the photos I wanted he said basicaly "Good for you." Smiled and went on his way.

      • by BlueStrat (756137) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @06:46PM (#26166577)

        Actually, no, you can legally photograph nearly everything you can see from public land in the US. There are a few places where they're known to lack a sense of humor about it, but almost everything is fair game. (That said, there are a few rare restrictions on such things.)

        Now understanding that this is the law in your country, and it is (apparently) clearly posted, well... yeah, they broke the law and got caught. As usual, /. distorts the story.

        As to US laws, here's what 18 USC 795 has to say (in part).

        "Whenever, in the interests of national defense, the President defines certain vital military and naval installations or equipment as requiring protection against the general dissemination of information relative thereto, it shall be unlawful to make any photograph, sketch, picture, drawing, map, or graphical representation of such vital military and naval installations or equipment without first obtaining permission of the commanding officer of the military or naval post, camp, or station, or naval vessels, military and naval aircraft, and any separate military or naval command concerned, or higher authority, and promptly submitting the product obtained to such commanding officer or higher authority for censorship or such other action as he may deem necessary."

        Executive Order 10104, 1 Feb 1950:

        "... it shall be unlawful to make any photograph, sketch, picture, drawing, map, or graphical representation of such vital military and naval installations or equipment..."

        Atomic Energy Commission, US Code, Title 42, Cap 23, Div A, Subchap XVII, Sec 2278b:

        "It shall be an offense...to make any photograph, sketch, picture, drawing, map or graphical representation, while present on property subject to the jurisdiction, administration or in the custody of the Commission."

        The laws w.r.t. photography/videography/general data-gathering concerning anything that could be construed as sensitive are very broad, and enforcement and interpretation varies enormously. Making assumptions here can get one in deep trouble very quickly with many large, angry, heavily-armed men, one of which might be thinking to himself; "I wonder if I could just shoot this idiot? If my buddy Smitty is Officer Of The Day today, he'd probably cover me in the report.".

        Cheers!

        Strat

      • by joocemann (1273720) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @11:45PM (#26169027)

        Actually, no, you can legally photograph nearly everything you can see from public land in the US. There are a few places where they're known to lack a sense of humor about it, but almost everything is fair game. (That said, there are a few rare restrictions on such things.)

        Now understanding that this is the law in your country, and it is (apparently) clearly posted, well... yeah, they broke the law and got caught. As usual, /. distorts the story.

        Actually, no, you cannot take pictures of many US Military installations. I was one of the guys who would apprehend you and take your camera from you. Please don't speak for America if you don't know enough to tell the truth.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Actually, no, you can legally photograph nearly everything you can see from public land in the US. There are a few places where they're known to lack a sense of humor about it, but almost everything is fair game. (That said, there are a few rare restrictions on such things.)

        Actually, no you can't. You can be charged with a federal crime for photographing certain US defense installations or equipment; no matter where you take the pictures of for what reason. In that respect US law is no different than Indian.

    • Judge the Law (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Thursday December 18, 2008 @06:33PM (#26166409) Homepage Journal

      So if they did photograph the air force base then they basically broke the law and have been charged. What's the problem?

      The law does almost nothing to prevent terrorism while throwing innocent people in jail for doing things a free person would normally do.

      That's the problem.

      We could have a really safe society by placing everybody under house arrest, unless they were being transported by the government to their work centers. Official delivery people could provide rations and perhaps emergency services personnel could use the roads as well. Then we just arrest anybody else traveling illegally and execute them for attempted terrorism.

      I'll take some risk with my freedom, thanks.

      • by DaveV1.0 (203135)

        There is more to this than terrorism. This is basic counter-espionage.

        Taking pictures of military and other government installations is a common first step to both detecting and planning an attack. Troop build-ups; armor, ship, and aircraft location and movement; the locations of guards, cameras, and other surveilence equipment; and other information can all be captured, transmitted, and analyzed.

        As an example, the attack on Pearl Harbor was planned, in part, using pictures taken by Japanese tourists and im

        • Taking pictures of military and other government installations is a common first step to both detecting and planning an attack. Troop build-ups; armor, ship, and aircraft location and movement; the locations of guards, cameras, and other surveilence equipment; and other information can all be captured, transmitted, and analyzed.

          No doubt. But this law can't stop that. The best it can do is put a little dent into it, so if your security is based on laws like this you're already screwed.

          That would be enough

      • Re:Judge the Law (Score:4, Insightful)

        by XchristX (839963) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @11:23PM (#26168853)

        The law does almost nothing to prevent terrorism while throwing innocent people in jail for doing things a free person would normally do.

        I don't know about that, but it does send a message to a totalitarian and genocidal enemy (Pakistan) that they will have a tougher time in carrying out their goals.

        I'll take some risk with my freedom, thanks.

        I'd rather lose some freedoms than die in a nuclear fireball, or live in perpetual misery in the Dhimmitude of an Islamic theocracy. Pakistan means to destroy our country or, failing that, occupy it and subject non-Muslims to the dehumanizing oppression of Dhimmitude (fighting Islamic Jihad is mentioned in their constitution, as well as the motto of their Army).

        It's easy for you to pontificate, sitting in a country surrounded by well-wishing allies. Not so for us, being the only democracy surrounded by Islamic theocracies and totalitarian dictatorships who mean to wipe us out (and have already tried to do so once: http://www.genocidebangladesh.org/ [genocidebangladesh.org]).

    • You can take pictures of pretty much anything in public view, including things like military bases. For that matter, pictures are usually freely available online. Where the US's bases are and such are not secret. Even the locations where secret things happen, such as testing facilities you can photograph from public land. What they do is simply create a large exclusionary zone. So while the facility might be, say, a square mile, there'll be 50 square miles around it that are owned by the government and off

    • In the US, as long as you're standing outside the fence, there's nothing preventing you from taking all the pictures you want. I wouldn't recommend driving around ON the base while taking pictures, however. Google has pretty good aerial photos of the air base where I live; and, the street view clearly shows the base as seen along the fence line.
    • by nurb432 (527695)

      Its still wrong.

    • by chrb (1083577) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @07:46PM (#26167271)

      The engineers were initially arrested for GPS surveying - despite the fact that Google Maps appears to have quite a detailed map of Jamnagar [google.com] (including the airforce base).

      The fact that the police actually found some incriminating photos afterwards doesn't mean that the original arrest was reasonable - using a GPS device isn't a crime, and shouldn't give the police license to search the rest of your equipment looking for further evidence.

      As to whether photographing an air force base should be a crime in the first place - let me introduce a detailed aerial photo of Jamnagar Air Force Base! [wikimapia.org] Also try searching for Jamnagar AFB on Google images :-) You can't put the cat back in the bag, and this kind of inadvertent information leakage is exactly what I was talking about when I noted the conflict between the traditional secrecy of the military/government and cheap, accurate personal electronics.

    • by chrb (1083577)

      So if they did photograph the air force base then they basically broke the law and have been charged. What's the problem?

      The problem is that the secret is already out. Wikimapia has a detailed photo of Jamnagar Air Force Base [wikimapia.org], the exact same base that these guys have been charged with taking photos of. Not only that, but metadata has been added that is obviously from people who work on the base - check out the Mig 29s, 28 squadron air force, Mig 21s, choppers, swimming pool, school, gymnasium, canteen; it's

  • by Milvuss (1417689) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @05:29PM (#26165579)

    Governments have to understand cartography can no longer be restricted to military or other officials.

    GPS, camera, satellites are ubiquitous, and we can see the result with things like Google Earth or wiki-like mapping. You can no longer make imprecise or secret maps. You can no longer forbid photos of any place you can see from a public location. You can no longer base your security on obscurity.

    After all, the bad guys probably already have all this information. You have to assume they have it, or your doomed to failure. Just make officially all those things public, and find new ways to implement security for your important places, for people, for the country...

    • by cdrguru (88047)

      In many countries a government agency has the exclusive right to produce maps. Attempting to compete with the government results in being shut down.

      Is it not the right of a country to determine who shall make maps?

      • by dwye (1127395)

        > Is it not the right of a country to determine who shall make maps?

        No, although it may be in their power. But this was India, which claims to be a modern democracy, not China, let alone North Korea.

    • Realistically though, this is India. Parts of it might appear the same on the surface where you'd visit as a tourist, but it's still not the USA or any similar country. There are a massive number of people (nearly 4 times the USA's population crammed into 1/3 the land area), poverty in general and overall standards of living are much lower, there are major distinctions in wealth, and a strong social class system still exists in some places and results in discrimination and unfair due process that couldn't

  • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @05:33PM (#26165633)

    Step 1: Create and heavily market new technology to public as a profitable venture

    Step 2: Make use of technology ILLEGAL

    Step 3: Fill privately owned/operated prisons with resulting miscreants OR...

    Optional Step 4: Use resulting abuse(illegality) as validation to extort money from general populace

    This model fits with the whole Media/DRM crap and now seems to be used for purposes other then making money.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday December 18, 2008 @05:40PM (#26165735)
    Why would cartographers be taking pictures of airforce bases, in addition to their more expected mapping out of GPS routes? Does sound just a tad suspicious. Can't blame India for wanting to ask them a few questions--the first question being "Are you a Pakistani spy or a terrorist?"
    • by Alsee (515537)

      We don't necessarily have 100% of the information here, but this whole thing seriously sounds to me like a typical case of governmental recto-cranial inversion.

      Why would cartographers be taking pictures of airforce bases...
      Does sound just a tad suspicious.

      And if they had "taken pictures of young girls playing in school yards" it would also sound suspicious.

      If people are making GPS maps and taking generic video/photos as part of it, then yes, that video and those photos will include the little girls in the s

  • The more just, accepted, legitimate, and mature is a nation's government, the less paranoid and totalitarian it becomes.

  • 1-way encryption (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mwilliamson (672411) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @07:20PM (#26166949) Homepage Journal
    This is the perfect opportunity to use some sort of crypo that encrypts the data stored (video, whatever) in a block by block fashion as it is recorded, but encrypts with traditional PKI so that there is no open session to attack. Also, the secret key shouldn't be stored on the device but instead reside with the news agency, trusted friend in another country, etc. In a nutshell, devices from video cameras to general-purpose gps-enabled geek toys shouldn't be made into easy tools for a repressive government to compile evidence against the user of the tool. I also realize though that these repressive regimes could just outlaw the crypto and make that penalty very harsh/cruel/insane, but then there's also the whole field of stenography, and this cat and mouse game can still continue ad nauseum. I really would love to build something like this out of a DV camera and some sort of small embeddible computer that could handle the I/O and crypto at DV rates.
  • by reallocate (142797) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @08:01PM (#26167441)

    Photographing military installations is a crime in many countries, as is publishing maps of areas that include those installations.

    Not to say that is right, but their employment by a GPS company was probably peripheral to the arrests.

  • by sunking2 (521698) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @09:12PM (#26168057)
    But maybe they actually are terrorists? Or are terrorists not allowed to hold a job that may be to their benefit? Maybe, just maybe there is a chance they got this right?
  • This seems awfully similar to the story of Richard Bliss's detention in Russia [anusha.com]. He was using GPS to determine the locations to erect cellular base stations, and was charged with spying.

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