Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Lawmakers Warned about Outsourcing Mapping Jobs

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Lawmakers Warned about Outsourcing Mapping Jobs

Article excerpt

State legislators were warned Wednesday that terrorists could obtain detailed information on Oklahoma infrastructure due to the outsourcing of high-tech mapping jobs to other countries.

It's only a matter of time until these people use our maps and geospatial data against us, said Eric White, vice president of operations for Aerial Data Services Inc.

White told members of the Oklahoma House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee that few aerial mapping companies do all of their work in the United States. Many of those companies make maps of installations such as pipelines, dams, airports and even military bases and outsource the work to facilities in China, India, Russia, Indonesia, Mexico and Canada.

Why make it easier for anyone with ill intentions to seize this geospatial data? White said.

He noted that the government of China regularly solicits U.S. companies to outsource mapping work.

White said officials cannot guarantee that the information shipped overseas is not passed on to other groups. He also said potential targets of terrorist attack, such as airports, are commonly being mapped by firms in other countries.

We feel like outsourcing in our industry is damaging to the security of this country, White said.

He said aerial mapping and geographical information system (GIS) projects have been outsourced since at least 1990.

We've had this problem for a long time, White said. Now it's hitting a fever pitch.

Rep. Fred Perry, R-Tulsa, who requested the interim study on outsourcing of mapping projects, noted that modern, high-tech mapping provides a wide range of data beyond just the physical location of a facility.

Since the early '80s, you've been able to put a cursor on a pipeline and bring everything up about that pipeline - not just be a line on a map, but you could bring up all the data associated with that pipeline, he said.

We're not just talking about an aerial photograph of a building, said Rep. Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa, who also requested the study. It's very detailed mapping.

White said state and local government contracts should require vendors to specify where work will be conducted and suggested the state require the use of secured facilities where employees undergo background checks before handling sensitive data. He also suggested state law should restrict access to mapping data or at least keep track of those who access data.

White said state government currently doesn't pay for many aerial mapping projects but city and county government do and state law could affect those contracts.

He also warned that past mapping projects are already widely available.

Before September 11, there wasn't a lot of thought given this, White said. So yes, there's a lot of stuff out there on the Internet for free.

If the government doesn't attempt to rein in access to that data, White predicted something bad is going to happen eventually. …

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