Back to the privacy issue raised by the OP...
What value is there in having real-time AIS information published on the Internet
The value seems to be the owners of the website gaining by pimping your private information. (Oh, wait, I guess that throws them into the pool with all the other social websites, FB, Myspace, etc.)
But, there is a difference between one volunteering private information on FB and MarineTraffic.com, Shipfinder.com, Vesselfinder.com, and the likes. These AIS sites are broadcasting your private information worldwide without your permission.
Yes, anyone with an AIS receiver can see my vessel AIS data within the VHF
range of my transmitter and their receiver. That is how the system works and what it is designed to do. In this example, the information about my vessel is used in navigation
, as a collision avoidance tool. All good! Those that see my vessel in this context aren't interested in exploiting that data for their monetary gain. Sure, piracy
will adapt to new tools, but piracy
isn't the norm so if I'm in an area I believe there might be such a thing happen, I'll go into 'stealth' mode.
It is very easy to write a script to visit these websites every few hours and gather data on any AIS transmitting vessel within range of these websites receivers. Using this script every few hours, one would not only know your current
location, but where you've been for as long as you've been transmitting AIS and within range of a station sending data to the website. Is this 'creepy'? Yes, some cruisers create blogs/websites to share exactly such information, but not all cruisers desire to do so.
What would you think about anyone/everyone tracking every move of your car? What if there was a GPS
receiver in your car coupled with a transmitter and a public website anyone could go and re-create the last 24 hours movement of your car? I would think any government
in a first world country would shut down such a 'service' pretty quickly. Yes, there are lots of webcams viewing public areas, but none that publish personal identifying data, and that is the difference. Being seen as a generic figure in public is typically not considered a breach of privacy, but allowing unknown tracking of a vehicle and/or person crosses that line. Hence, maybe there needs to be some higher government
awareness of these AIS tracking sites.
So what is the solution?
1) What would the value of MarineTraffic.com, Shipfinder.com, Vesselfinder.com be if they did not display the static data, but just the dynamic data? They would still have pretty screens with little ship icons moving around. Probably a lesser number of viewers that results in a lesser amount of money
collected from advertisers.
2) What if display of static data was a simple 'opt-in' feature? IOW, the proven vessel owner would agree to the display of static data. That would protect the privacy of those that have such desire, and also allow those who wish to be seen and identified.