Google Helps To Use Big Data For Global Surveillance -- And That's Good

from the fishy-business dept

Techdirt writes plenty about the dangers of surveillance, and how big data is not the solution to everything, despite what PR companies would have us believe. Putting the two together is usually a recipe for very bad things, but not always. Global Fishing Watch, a new project involving Google, the environmental mapping group SkyTruth, and the conservation organization Oceana, shows how they can be used responsibly to tackle serious global problems that were hitherto intractable:

Global Fishing Watch is the product of a technology partnership between SkyTruth, Oceana, and Google that is designed to show all of the trackable fishing activity in the ocean. This interactive web tool -- currently in prototype stage -- is being built to enable anyone to visualize the global fishing fleet in space and time. Global Fishing Watch will reveal the intensity of fishing effort around the world, one of the stressors contributing to the precipitous decline of our fisheries.
The system works by analyzing data from the Automatic Identification System (AIS) network, which broadcasts a ship's location. Although AIS was primarily designed as a safety mechanism to avoid collisions at sea, information about the vessel's behavior can be derived by analyzing AIS data for the identity, speed and direction of broadcasting vessels. Global Fishing Watch uses that analysis to remove all the cargo ships and other non-fishing vessel activity. A lot of data is involved:
Global Fishing Watch started with 3.7 billion data points, more than a terabyte of data from two years of satellite collection, covering the movements of 111,374 vessels during 2012 and 2013. We ran a behavioral classification model that we developed across this data set to identify when and where fishing behavior occurred. The prototype visualization contains 300 million AIS data points covering over 25,000 unique vessels. For the initial fishing activity map, the data is limited to 35 million detections from 3,125 vessels that we were able to independently verify were fishing vessels. Global Fishing Watch then displays fishing effort in terms of the number of hours each vessel spent engaged in fishing behavior, and puts it all on a map that anyone with a web browser will be able to explore.
That openness is a crucial aspect of the project:
Global Fishing Watch will be available to the public, enabling anyone with an internet connection to monitor when and where commercial fishing is happening around the globe. Citizens can use the tool to see for themselves whether their fisheries are being effectively managed. Seafood suppliers can keep tabs on the boats they buy fish from. Media and the public can act as watchdogs to improve the sustainable management of global fisheries. Fisherman can show that they are obeying the law and doing their part. Researchers will have access to a multi-year record of all trackable fishing activity.
That's pretty much a win for everyone. Nations gain better control over their territorial waters and the resources they contain. It will be easier for food suppliers, journalists and the public to track which ships are fishing legally and sustainably. That will make it easier to identify and penalize those that aren't -- and reward those that do. Better control of illegal fishing should mean that quotas are adhered to, allowing fishing to stocks to recover. Detailed record-keeping will improve the science behind those quotas, making them more realistic and thus sustainable in the long term. In other words, Global Fishing Watch is an example of surveillance and big data analysis that even fish can love.

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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 17 Dec 2014 @ 2:31am

    I'd say this is a bit different than the surveillance Snowden revealed. I'm pretty much ok with using data publicly available and this is a good example but my private communications should remain private. I also have an issue with places like WalMart tracking my buying habits or even Visa but this can be avoided with cold, hard cash so there is that. Assuming such companies don't share which we know it isn't true.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Thrudd, 17 Dec 2014 @ 5:00am

    Fish Pirates

    So how easy would it be for those illegally fishing to just turn off the transponder or not have one in the first place?
    That would make the whole thing futile,
    Just as effective as the whaling ban.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 17 Dec 2014 @ 5:44am

      Re: Fish Pirates

      Fish are now downloading unauthorized movies and music?

      I would think by now they would be programmed to avoid "The Net".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 17 Dec 2014 @ 5:06am

    Streisand Effect

    Lots of people know about the Streisand Effect, but few know the details of how it started.

    Amateur photographers Ken and Gabrielle Adelman use their own helicopter and flew up and down the California coastline taking high-resolution pictures to document coastline "erosion" and derosion (that's when celebrities buy beachfront property and add sand and rock to extend their beaches).

    Barbra sued them (and other parties) in what became a famous meme, but the original lawsuit was about the pictures of her house from a program that californiacoastline.org documents well.

    The use of satellite and other imagery to document our ecosystem and its evolution (whether man-made, caused, assisted, or independent) is a very good thing.

    E
    P.S. If you don't care about anything I wrote about the Earth and the California Coastline and just want to refresh yourself on the lawsuit, all the docs (and a picture of the check!) are here: http://www.californiacoastline.org/streisand/lawsuit.html

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 17 Dec 2014 @ 5:35am

    Let's get this out of the way

    Ahh, I get it, surveillance bad, but Google good and since this is Google surveillance, this must be the good kind of surveillance.

    Mikey, you are clearly a paid Google shill.

    And really? Using Glyn's good name to hide your own Google fanboy-isms?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 17 Dec 2014 @ 5:42am

    For all of the people that still say "it's just meta-data", re-read this passage:

    Global Fishing Watch started with 3.7 billion data points, more than a terabyte of data from two years of satellite collection, covering the movements of 111,374 vessels during 2012 and 2013. We ran a behavioral classification model that we developed across this data set to identify when and where fishing behavior occurred. The prototype visualization contains 300 million AIS data points covering over 25,000 unique vessels. For the initial fishing activity map, the data is limited to 35 million detections from 3,125 vessels that we were able to independently verify were fishing vessels. Global Fishing Watch then displays fishing effort in terms of the number of hours each vessel spent engaged in fishing behavior, and puts it all on a map that anyone with a web browser will be able to explore.

    They took a set of behaviors known to be used by fishing vessels and developed a model to detect them. THAT is why we don't want the government collecting all of our phone call meta-data, license plate locations, and online activity: they could use it to develop a model to identify political dissidents.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Meta-hater, 17 Dec 2014 @ 6:03am

      Re: Metadata is now good?

      This was my first thought when I read this. So the fishing boats that have nothing to hide have nothing to worry about, right?

      And we could put a transponder on every boat to see which boats did bad things, but that doesn't mean we should.

      How long before we see a similar effort using the OnStar or cell-phone position-tracking tools to visualize traffic patterns for cars and trucks on the highway system, or in the business district.

      After all, this would be a win win win for everybody:
      Citizens can use the tool to see for themselves whether traffic is being effectively managed. Fuel suppliers can track the vehicles they sell fuel to. Media and the public can act as watchdogs to improve the sustainable management of roadways. Drivers can show that they are obeying the law and doing their part. Researchers will have access to a multi-year record of all trackable vehicles.


      What could go wrong?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 17 Dec 2014 @ 11:14am

        Re: Re: Metadata is now good?

        "How long before we see a similar effort using the OnStar or cell-phone position-tracking tools to visualize traffic patterns for cars and trucks on the highway system, or in the business district."

        Unless you opt-out, Google already does this with Android devices. You get the benefit of that information when you use the Google Maps feature that tells you how congested the various roads are. I don't think they have a gods-eye-view thing like for the fishing fleets, though.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2014 @ 6:57am

    Oh what a slippery slope we live on

    And we could put a transponder on every boat to see which boats did bad things, but that doesn't mean we should.

    You are exactly right. Today, everyone is guilty until proven innocent. The logic used by this author is the same logic that can be used to monitor anyone for anything. This blog talks up privacy and innocent until proven guilty and the fallacy of "if you have nothing to hide" and then we get this article? Doesn't seem to jive.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 17 Dec 2014 @ 7:57am

    True, but

    That there are many indisputably good applications of big data is obvious. I'm still far from convinced that such uses effectively counterbalance all of the bad stuff that's coming from it, though.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2014 @ 8:22am

      Re: True, but

      Considering the 2 biggest uses are currently marketing and surveillance, that's a heavy load to balance.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2014 @ 7:00pm

    Interesting. I'm not sure Automatic Identification System (AIS) networks would work for policing fishermen. I just read a report from Trend Micro, stating AIS software and protocols are incredibly insecure and prone to location spoofing.


    "Chief among them are flaws in the AIS protocol which was developed in a “hardware epoch” and lacks even basic security features such as authentication and message integrity checks."

    ...

    "In their work, Balduzzi and Wilhoit – working with an independent security researcher – were able to use software-defined radio based attacks to trigger a range of phony messages, from false SOS and “man in the water” distress beacons to fake CPA (or Closest Point of Approach) alert and collision warnings on an AIS system set up in a lab environment."

    "Separate tests also revealed that malicious AIS messages could be used to knock out VTS (Vessel Tracking System) servers by exploiting common software vulnerabilities like buffer overflows and SQL injection, the researchers wrote."


    https://securityledger.com/2014/12/research-finds-cyber-physical-attacks-against-vessel-track ing-system/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2014 @ 12:36pm

    Jesus was the original fish pirate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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