Be Aware of the Proposed Geospatial Data Act (GDA) of 2017

Caitlin Dempsey

Back in May of this year, US Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced the Geospatial Data Act (GDA).  

S. 1253 is being promoted as a bipartisan bill to “improve coordination, reduce duplication, and increase data transparency in the acquisition of geospatial data.”  

This bill is a reintroduction of S. 740: Geospatial Data Act of 2015 which was introduced during the 114th Congress.  That bill was never enacted.

A screenshot of the beginning of a congressional bill.

The American Association of Geographers has come out strongly in opposition of the bill, calling it a “breathtakingly-selfish attempt to hijack the mapping and GIS fields”, that, if signed into law, “would result in a significant loss of jobs throughout the U.S.

The AAG further contends that the bill would cripple the dynamic and innovative American GIS, IT, and mapping companies and communities that have developed GIS and internet mapping, and now power its continued innovation and growth in jobs and new technologies.”

The AAG has a good breakdown of what the implications of the bill’s passage would be to the GIS industry in this piece: New Plot to Hijack GIS and Mapping.   

The most impactful aspect of the bill is the requirement that GIS and mapping services fall under the 1972 Brooks Act requiring those service be limited to “licensed architectural and engineering services firms.  

This echoes the unsuccessful lawsuit back in 2007 by Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS) to enact a similar requirement for geospatial services.

A scan of tweets by GIS Professionals on Twitter is mostly negative.  

A few of the tweets:

Passage of this bill is unsure.  According to GovTrack, the bill has a 1% chance of being enacted according to an analysis of the bill’s text by Skopos Labs.





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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.

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