The first item up for discussion was whether more formal procedures for posting and deleting information from the town website are necessary. Committee member and secretary Jessica Bruno said that, in her capacity of selectboard secretary, she has taken on primary responsibility for much of that work, though town clerk Patricia Dow retains responsibility for the home page.
Bruno said that for the time being, she sees no need for setting up more formal procedures or lines of authority. In the future, if the job becomes more extensive and complex, the issue can be revisited. Her colleagues agreed.
Bruno said that she has posted the annual town report on the site. She is now sorting through other materials, such as official town policies, and would like some help in determining what material is current and relevant. Committee chair Earl Holtz said he will try to help organize and assist in that task.
Holtz displayed a copy of a map he printed out from the US Cellular website which shows locations where 4G cellphone reception might be expected within Halifax. The map distinguishes between stronger and weaker reception spots. Unsurprisingly, the map showed the useful spots are at higher elevations. Bruno offered to include a link to the map in the meeting minutes (available at www.halifaxvermont.com).
Bruno reported on her efforts to research locations of AT&T towers. The AT&T site was of limited usefulness, Bruno said. Parts of the site are blocked to unregistered users. Bruno tried to register, but got “no response.” The site includes applications for those who are interested in building towers on their property. Bruno said it appears that property owners would have to shoulder research and construction costs themselves; if AT&T is interested in using a tower at a given site, the company will lease the tower from the owner.
Holtz relayed an interesting item from the absent Gretchen Becker. It appears that the Google mapping project had been doing a lot more than just mapping. Google had also been collecting any unencrypted data from wireless setups in the areas it canvassed. Wireless users were not informed that their data was being collected, far less asked for permission. Google, which disclosed the activities after an internal review, says they have stopped collecting the data.
In France and Germany, Holtz said, where privacy laws are more stringent than those in the US, suits have been brought against Google forcing the “do no evil” company to disgorge illicitly collected data. It has apparently been a difficult and lengthy process. In this country, Google has so far gotten away with refusing to reveal what data it has scooped up, claiming that it would “violate the privacy” of the data’s original owners to do so.
This is relevant for Halifax because wireless service is the most likely form of broadband service for the area, given the difficulty and expense of establishing any system that requires building major infrastructure. Holtz suggested that if and when wireless arrives in the town, customers can get information from the provider on how to encrypt their data in order to protect private or sensitive information. Banking transactions, bill payments, tax returns, or purchases are examples of information that people might not want to have collected by Google or other parties without their permission.