Lars Plougmann on "When and where should be free information"
He writes: "This weekend I learned about two government follies. One is a lesson from history, the other is a current example. Both are about restricting access to information, limiting freedom and economic activity", and elaborates on the facts that "in 1797 the English parliament decided to impose a tax on personal timepieces" and that "in Russia today, civilians are not allowed to use GPS. The government is afraid that decentralised mapping threatens national security. This makes it difficult for organisations to record locations of their assets and use of car navigation systems is almost unheard of."
I, of course agree with his overall argument. I nevertheless would like to add that the regulations mentionned about GPS in Russia do sound rather odd, probably pointless, and most definitelly anachronisticly reminiscent of the spirit of the Cold War, one needs to bear in mind that whislt widely used by civilians, GPS remains a military technology. It was set up by the US DoD and is managed by the 50th Space Wing at Schriever Air Force Base. Let us bear in mind that historically, as French Geographer Yves Lacoste famously once put it, "La Géographie, ça sert d'abord à faire la guerre", "Geography's prime purpose is war".
The Russians incidently maintain their own global system, the Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) and the European Union is developping its own, Galileo, which should be up and running (Sorry about the lousy pun!) in 2010.More in the wikipedia article on Global Positioning System