Feeds

Licenses blocking third-party emergency warnings

Oz governments still lag on open data

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Last weekend, a fire-storm in the Perth Hills destroyed 55 homes, and today, Victoria is facing fire conditions close to those experienced on “Black Saturday” in 2009 (having already suffered power cuts in the heatwave).

In such conditions, emergency services do their best to distribute warning information via their Websites and apps, but outages and slow system responses are frequent.

For example, when the Perth Hills fires were at their worst last weekend, Vulture South observed time-outs and page load times stretching beyond three minutes at the Western Australia Department of Fire and Emergency Services alerts map.

If a disaster occurs in the next 24-48 hours in Victoria, the same could happen.

Which makes this image mystifying to The Register:

Screenshot of Google Crisis Map

Google's pro-bono crisis mapping work is a valuable second source of information about fires. Updated from the original sources (in the case of bushfires in Australia, the responsible emergency services organisation), they're served by an infrastructure that's robust under load – a little corner of the Googleplex.

The Register does not argue that online alerts are yet at the life-or-death level. There are many obstacles in the way – and one of those obstacles is infrastructure reliability. As the importance and utility of emergency service alerts over the Internet grows, however, an effective “second source” for raw data will also become more important.

Even today, online alerts at least provide this: they let people know where not to go – which is important to help prevent an emergency escalating simply because people didn't know to stay away.

And in an era where so much is said about open government data, the absence of states like Western Australia and Victoria from the Google effort is a failure of open government.

Both states have feeds that could be integrated into the Google crisis maps with minimal effort, both states have a public commitment to open data, and both states have licenses that prevent their feeds being mirrored by Google.

The Western Australia Department of Fire and Emergency Services' RSS “feeds are made available for personal, non-commercial use only. You may not edit or modify the text, content or links supplied”, Victoria's Country Fire Authority's copyright statement is clear: “no part may be reproduced or reused for any commercial purposes whatsoever”.

(Curiously, the CFA copyright statement permits personal use, using the American term “fair dealing” rather than the Australian “fair use”.)

Australia still has a long way to go before it understands the “open data” policies it's trying to implement. ®

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
JINGS! Microsoft Bing called Scots indyref RIGHT!
Redmond sporran metrics get one in the ten ring
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google, please
'Platform for piracy' must be punished, or it'll kill us in FIVE YEARS
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.