Google Maps Question/Concern

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Google Maps Question/Concern

Postby kaolin87 » Jun 14, 2016 1:34 pm

Hello all,

I apologize for the following vagueness but I trust it will make sense. I am a professional ecologist that is conducting background research on a project area. I received feedback from an agency on species/places of concern near the project area; one place of concern is a nearby cave. When I searched the cave's name online, I stumbled across a live/shared Google Map page (the only search result) with all known caves in my state pinpointed. These points are able to be downloaded into a KMZ file. I've been to a few of my state's public caves, and those points appear to be accurate. Obviously I will not share this discovery here.

My concern is someone with a lack of cave etiquette will stumble upon this and do harm (intentional or not) to these caves and their often-sensitive inhabitants. There again, I am not 100% familiar with the caving community so I don't know if this is standard practice to share this information, but I assume it is not. Is this OK or should this be addressed? Shoot me a message if you are a part of an SS/grotto/etc. if this is an issue.

Thanks!

:waving:
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Re: Google Maps Question/Concern

Postby tncaver » Jun 16, 2016 12:51 pm

The posting of cave locations on the web concerns us too. But what can we do about it.
There is only one thing I can think of that you can do. That is to notify Google about the
sensitivity of those locations. However, I highly doubt that will change anything.
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Re: Google Maps Question/Concern

Postby graveleye » Jun 16, 2016 3:51 pm

They might... they're fairly environmentally friendly. The trick is getting to the right person at Google in order to state your case.
I've noticed some caves marked on Google Maps too, but the same caves are also on topo maps.
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Re: Google Maps Question/Concern

Postby tncaver » Jun 16, 2016 4:59 pm

graveleye wrote:They might... they're fairly environmentally friendly. The trick is getting to the right person at Google in order to state your case.
I've noticed some caves marked on Google Maps too, but the same caves are also on topo maps.


I bet Google maps is viewed by way more people than topo maps. Therefore the danger to caves is multiplied exponentially.
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Re: Google Maps Question/Concern

Postby graveleye » Jun 17, 2016 8:01 am

absolutely. I'm sure it is.
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Re: Google Maps Question/Concern

Postby LukeM » Jun 17, 2016 9:40 am

I'm surprised no one has suggested trying to get in contact with the person responsible for the map. Is there any contact info on their page? If so, it can't hurt to try politely explaining the sensitive nature of the locations and asking that they be removed. If they own the website domain you may be able to look up their name or contact info using Whois, and for that matter someone in the local caving community may know who they are and could reach out to them. I would get in contact with the relevant NSS grotto(s) so they can look into it if they want to.
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Re: Google Maps Question/Concern

Postby CaverScott » Jun 17, 2016 10:58 am

What state would this pertain to?
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Re: Google Maps Question/Concern

Postby bigredfoote » Jun 17, 2016 2:09 pm

In general it is frowned upon in the US (but not Europe). Here is a link to an old post about the laws. http://www.forums.caves.org/viewtopic.p ... 1161#p9213

I agree, best thing is to contact the person who posted the map. It's possible they don't know they made it public. If they do want to post it, contact local grottos and see if they can educate them on local cave etiquette. I know of one state that has data posted on purpose, but they are remote and it has helped them share scientific info. Sharing private land info could lead to poor landowner relations.

As an aside, from what I understand, Google Earth and ESRI are "secure" to store your cave data on. Google Maps may "copy and archive" your data.

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Re: Google Maps Question/Concern

Postby DStud » Jun 19, 2016 5:07 pm

I believe he is talking about the GSS listing. I stumbled upon it about a week ago, not good.
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Re: Google Maps Question/Concern

Postby graveleye » Jun 20, 2016 8:01 am

as far as I know, the GSS itself does not list any of it's data online.
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Re: Google Maps Question/Concern

Postby ohiocaver » Jun 20, 2016 9:11 am

Have stumbled across the same thing ... most recently in central Indiana where two cave locations popped right up when my cursor hovered over the area.
However, I am not concerned.
With the exception of the truly nefarious (say those looking to steal Indian artifacts or the like), I don't see mapping/posting cave locations as a problem. The bad guys will get cave location data one way or the other since they have a profit motive. Most of the rest of the world lists cave locations with no adverse effect on caves.
Just as abandoned or deserted homes and cabins are the first vandalized, so too with caves. Caves not visited are at risk.
I've yet to hear of a bunch of party animals say on a Saturday night, "Let's Google cave locations so we can get trashed!" Locals already know the locations of caves in the area. Their fathers, uncles and grandmothers all partied in those caves.
What results in damage to caves is keeping legitimate cavers away (whether those cavers are NSS members or not). A good example of this is the damage done to Eastern caves since WNS closures. Cave damage is up. Caves that used to be frequented by sport cavers have been turned into meth labs....all because the bad guys can do their thing with impunity since there is little chance that a legitimate caver will show up or interrupt their doings.
Truly fragile caves do need gates. All caves need more activity in and around them just so they do not become the target of damage. And local cave clubs and grottoes need to increase their educational outreach to scout, school, church and other groups (like Audubon Society, hiking clubs) so those folks know about the value of caves, how to cave gently and where to report bad guys who would damage caves.
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Re: Google Maps Question/Concern

Postby DStud » Jun 21, 2016 2:50 pm

I understand that the GSS does not publicly post their listing...a member (or nonmember) posted the listing publicly. I'll attach a screenshot. I tried contacting them but no response.


Image
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Re: Google Maps Question/Concern

Postby DStud » Jun 21, 2016 3:14 pm

Maybe move this thread to sensitive caving subjects?
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Re: Google Maps Question/Concern

Postby Steven Johnson » Jun 21, 2016 9:03 pm

(Reposted with slight edits from the NSSWest mailing list -- I work at Google, though not on the Maps team)

I think that the correct policy is in place at Google to do the right thing when this occurs... that said, please keep in mind that (generally speaking) the policy at Google is that information on maps shouldn't be suppressed unless there is unambiguous legal compulsion to do so, and that Google doesn't proactively review all the features that users enter on maps (typically they only review them when someone makes a complaint or takedown request).

I don't have an Official Policy Statement From Google on this, but what I was made to understand is that a takedown request that

(1) attests to being from the owner (or legal manager) of the property
(2) cites the Federal Cave Protection Act of 1988
(3) is not obviously fraudulent or malicious

should result in a removal of the marker in a reasonably timely manner.

(Some have expressed disappointment that the request must be from the owner/manager of the property; I consider this suboptimal, but not unreasonable, since otherwise Google would have to make an evaluation of the "significance" of the cave under FCPA/1988, which they are obviously unprepared to do.)

On a personal note, I ask you to please approach this with persistence + patience, and an assumption of goodwill on Google's part (i.e., if you have to repeat the takedown notice, please avoid getting angry; just restate the legal requirements above, and keep it up.)

Also, keep in mind that getting such markers taken down once may not guarantee that people won't re-post it later in a way that needs further attention; this is annoying, but just as with the knuckleheads who sell speleothems on eBay, enforcement is largely going to fall on concerned volunteers to point out violations of the law.

(Feel free to contact me directly if you have issues; I'm not involved in the Google Maps product in any way, and have no authority to compel takedowns, but I do have a slightly-more-direct line of communication to the people involved.)
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Re: Google Maps Question/Concern

Postby GroundquestMSA » Jun 22, 2016 9:16 am

ohiocaver wrote:Most of the rest of the world lists cave locations with no adverse effect on caves.

This is widely claimed, and is simply untrue. The argument seems to be based on the incorrect assumption that trash, graffiti, and vandalism are the only "adverse effects".
Even by that definition, it is obvious that damage cannot be reduced or avoided by making locations public. It is also necessary to account for variances in culture when trying to understand what "works". I am thinking, for example, of some Caribbean and Central/South American caves that are widely known by the public but which are not damaged by them because, for superstitious or cultural reasons, they are never entered . So while we might draw some general lessons from the way cave protection is approached in other countries, we should not ignore our responsibility to try and understand the intricacies of local care.

ohiocaver wrote:Caves not visited are at risk... What results in damage to caves is keeping legitimate cavers away

Try caving, as I have the joy to do, in places where caves are not visited by cavers. You will find many well-preserved, undamaged, even pristine, caves. Again, recreational caving organizations such as NSS seem incapable of accepting the consequences of pushing caving as a "sport". A meth lab may cause much less damage than sport caving by "legitimate" cavers. Consider the historical equivalent of moonshining. I would sooner see the remnants of a still in an otherwise intact cave than follow the trail of destruction left in the wake of NSS cavers through a conservancy-owned and gated cave. Both examples exist within a few miles of each other.

ohiocaver wrote: All caves need more activity in and around them just so they do not become the target of damage.

Emphasis mine.
A few caves might benefit from such an approach. For such a philosophy to be enacted in all caves would result in heartbreaking ruin.
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