Following Hattie’s in-depth seminar on Google Earth I will compile some further research on my blog…
Controversy and Critisism Surrounding Google Earth.
The software has been criticized by a number of special interest groups, including national officials, as being an invasion of privacy and even posing a threat to national security. The typical argument is that the software provides information about military or other critical installations that could be used by terrorists. The following is a selection of such concerns:
Former Indian president APJ Abdul Kalam has expressed concern over the availability of high-resolution pictures of sensitive locations in India. Google subsequently agreed to censor such sites.
The Indian Space Research Organisation has said Google Earth poses a security threat to India, and seeks dialogue with Google officials.
The South Korean government has expressed concern that the software offers images of the presidential palace and various military installations that could possibly be used by their hostile neighbour North Korea.
In 2006, one user spotted a large topographical replica in a remote region of China. The model is a small-scale (1/500) version of the Karakoram Mountain Range, currently under the control of China but claimed by India. When later confirmed as a replica of this region, spectators began entertaining military implications.
Morocco‘s main Internet provider Maroc Telecom has been blocking Google Earth since August 2006 for undisclosed reasons.
Operators of the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in Sydney, New South Wales asked Google to censor high resolution pictures of the facility. However, they later withdrew the request.
In July 2007, it was reported that a new Chinese navy Jin-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine was photographed at the Xiaopingdao Submarine Base south of Dalian.
In October 2007, The Guardian reported that the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades were using Google Earth to plan Qassam rocket attacks on Israel.
Some citizens may express concerns over aerial information depicting their properties and residences being disseminated freely. As relatively few jurisdictions actually guarantee the individual’s right to privacy, as opposed to the state’s right to secrecy, this is an evolving, but minor, point. Perhaps aware of these critiques, for a time, Google had Area 51 (which is highly visible and easy to find) in Nevada as a default placemark when Google Earth is first installed. The United States Government ordered for this to be removed.
As a result of pressure from the United States government, the residence of the Vice President at Number One Observatory Circle is obscured through pixelization in Google Earth and Google Maps. The usefulness of this downgrade is questionable, as high-resolution photos and aerial surveys of the property are readily available on the Internet elsewhere. Capitol Hill used to also be pixelized in this way but this was lifted.
Critics have expressed concern over the willingness of Google to cripple their dataset to cater to special interests, believing that intentionally obscuring any land goes against its stated goal of letting the user “point and zoom to any place on the planet that you want to explore”.