Brian Calder and I wrote a paper that came out back in 2009, that talks about some of the issues with AIS. I have written in my blog about the issues with security and integrity of AIS communications. My blog is temporarily offline, but I've stashed the text here: http://vislab-ccom.unh.edu/~schwehr/blog/archives-20141122.tar.xz And you can look through my papers here: http://vislab-ccom.unh.edu/~schwehr/papers/ AIS really sucks for a lot of purposes and was intended just for safety of navigation when it was intitially put together in the 1990's. Yet, it does show a huge fraction of the behavior of the world's vessels. There are lots of ways to filter AIS data and conflating it with other data sources (of which there is a huge list). And there are tons of different tools to help you sort out what's going on from the spectrum level to high level views like the Global Fishing Watch.
For example, this statement from the article:
"Until 2012, AIS data was super reliable because it wasn't commoditised. Nobody had it, so no one needed to clean the data or check it," Ami Daniel, a former naval officer and cofounder of Windward, tells WIRED.co.uk.So not true. The trend over 2000-2010 was for things with AIS getting way better, but it was still not great. It took > 3 years for the USCG to notice my Class B receiver with the wrong country in the MMSI in it that was sitting right next to the USCG station in New Hampshire (like < 100m). The number of vessels with bad MMSI's or "sailing to Casablanca" was huge. Anyone not carefully inspecting AIS data now or then is crazy for certain applications. And quotes like this:
Final ports of call were reported only 41 percent of the timeare meaningless. Ships don't have to report their port of call for a lot of places. It's a courtesy. And even when mariners try to enter it correctly, the AIS required keyboard and typical interface is most kindly described as "painful."
Yes, anyone in the business knows that $100 of gear will let you spoof an invasion of the Spanish armada (yes, the Spanish admitted to practicing that), so the Wired article baffles me with all the grandstanding. Sadly, the Wired/Windward article sounds more like an advertisement. I hope they will come to the table with more constructive discussions in the future as it is going to take wide ranging effort from many parties (non-profits, companies, citizens and governments) to create a global economic environment that is effective and environmentally sustainable. I've through contributions into the ring in my work with Google, the University of New Hampshire, Cornell, NOAA, USCG, IFAW, SkyTruth, EarthNC, Conserve.IO, and many others (e.g. WhaleAlert, Global Fishing Watch, libais, noaadata, my papers, my blog, my unpaid support of the Deepwater Horizon spill, going to AIS standards meetings, etc.).
So I look forward to seeing Windward and others join in the effort to make our planet a better place for the long hall. Yes, economic growth, improved conditions for all people, and environmental protection can all happen together. If you are a coder, go check out github and the standards. If you are a policy person, attack the legal and political issues. If you are a mariner, work with your colleagues to help ships get their data correct and that the laws and best practices actually make sense. Biologists, oceanographers and other scientists, keep studying. If you don't fit those categories, I'm you can find a way to help.... there are so many ways to help. We are all on this planet together.