Giving credit where credit is due, we might ask where the Global Positioning System would be without the government? It is then much easier to see what the government’s role has been in the past, what it continues to be, and what it will probably be in the future.
The beginnings were actually with the advent of communications satellites. The government was directly involved in their research, funding, production, and launch. Even later, when corporations began creating their own satellites, they still contracted the government and NASA to put them into orbit.
It took very little time for the government to figure out that the same technology could have many other potential uses, from research, to surveillance, to defense. The US Forest Service even got into the act by using infrared satellites as a means of tracking wildfires and spotting the areas that needed the most attention.
There were some obvious problems, however, especially for clandestine eavesdropping and other potential security issues. To help guard against this, regulations were put into place by the government limiting to what purposes the satellites could be put to, and how they would be used. Those regulations continue to be watched and changed as needed, and many people see this as over regulating, though the purpose is individual security.
The GPS system as it is today, is one of the bases for the many other satellite systems including those that are listed here. Technology continues to grow, and though the government has spent a relatively small amount to further the technology, they still do a fair share of funding. Conversely, over the years the funding from the government for NASA has been dwindling, which ultimately takes funding away from developing GPS and other satellite technologies, just not in a transparent way.
The Global Positioning technology is still relatively new, and there is little doubt that it will experience growing pains. Through it all, from the very beginning, the government has played a pivotal role and continues to do so. It has the ability to take the lead and to help much more than it is helping right now, but on the other hand, without the help it has given, GPS might well still be on the drawing board.
Worries that big brother is watching or not, the government has, does, and will most likely continue to have a major role in the continuing development of this technology.