[aprssig] APRS<=>Google

Kurt Kochendarfer ke7kus at gmail.com
Fri Oct 17 03:18:04 EDT 2008

> I think there are two big legal issues that need to be addressed here. 
> First, is this going to be classified as commercial use?  

I think commercial use speaks specifically to use related to direct
"pecuniary" interests on behalf of the user, if we're talking about Part
97.  Unless an operator somehow receives some direct fiscal benefits
from the proposed usage, I don't see how it would be considered any
different than making a voice call on a local repeater to obtain local
info.  Using it to get stock reports, on the other hand, would clearly
be a violation, but it would be relatively easy to block such clearcut
violations at the server end.  With the increasing popularity of
HSMM/Hinternet operations under Part 97 and existing rulings on things
like appropriate use of the autopatch, I think there's enough of a
standard set to keep out of trouble here.

> Can you ensure 
> that only factual data comes back and not advertising copy?

Google's pages use XHTML formatting, one of the benefits of which is
that return data come encapsulated in their own tag, class, or id.  As
such, a simple XML/HTML parser can be used to obtain just the data.
Example - 

A query might return something that looks like this:

<address>123 W. Main St.</address>

All you have to do is strip out the "address", "city", "state", and
"phone" tags and take the text in-between.  This text is then returned
in an APRS message.  No advertising passed at all.

>   And second, 
> are you going to run afoul of Google's terms of service?

Thanks for this consideration.  I hadn't really thought of it, but it's
a great thought.  I checked the TOS and came up with this:

"5.3 You agree not to access (or attempt to access) any of the Services
by any means other than through the interface that is provided by
Google, unless you have been specifically allowed to do so in a separate
agreement with Google. You specifically agree not to access (or attempt
to access) any of the Services through any automated means (including
use of scripts or web crawlers) and shall ensure that you comply with
the instructions set out in any robots.txt file present on the

Of course this is all open to interpretation, and I think it is
sufficiently vague to warrant some care.  My argument in light of the
above TOS clause would be that Google has made the Service available
through an HTTP interface, and that is exactly the method we are using
to access the information provided by the Service, as apparent to
Google.  As for the "automated means", there is a lot of room for
interpretation there.  A web browser is an "automated" means of
accessing Google - it is functionally a complex script that turns XHTML
into a more human-readable format.  What I'm proposing is a "browser" of
sorts that displays Google web page data on the face of an APRS radio.
It's not nearly as fancy as the browser on your average cellular radio,
but in the end it communicates the same info.

As I said, I could see a lawyer arguing the other way.  Fortunately,
Google makes it easy to request permission for this type of usage, which
I would certainly do, should there be sufficient interest to move ahead
with the project.  I think if you couch the proposal in terms of
building an additional browser to display the data via the existing
Google HTTP interface, you could expect the proposal to garner a
reasonable amount of consideration.


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