Google has agreed. It is going to blur sensitive sites in India. It was our President Shri A P J Abdul Kalam, who had objected to Google Earth showing high resolution pictures of sensitive sites. Apparently Google Earth and the Indian government have come to an understanding to the effect that images of scientific and defense establishments would not be shown clearly. This is considered preferable to blocking out the sites completely. A complete blackout would in fact draw attention to these locations. From a Times of India report:
Images of these locations will not be of more than 25-30 meter resolution, more like older generation picures provided by Indian Remote Sensing Satellites…Google Earth would distort the building plans by adding structures where none existed or masking certain aspects of a facility.
Well, India is not the only country to have protested. Last year countries like South Korea, Thailand and even Australia raised objections. Considering that Google has already reached an agreement with America and has actually ‘obscured the White House roof, and the tops of other key US governmental buildings’ there is no reason why Google should not do it for other countries as well. A quote from New York Times:
United States law requires that images of Israel shot by American-licensed commercial satellites be made available only at a relatively low resolution. Also, the companies’ operating licenses allow the United States government to put any area off limits in the interests of national security. A 24-hour delay is mandated for images of especially high resolution.
Considering these different standards for different countries, it was about time that India clamped down on Google. As the pictures published here show, extraordinary details can be visible. For India specially (we are surrounded on all sides by countries not considered friendly) these images are a big threat. And what is the point of the prohibitions regarding photography of sensitive sites, whether a dam, a tunnel or a defense site, if anyone can get the pictures from Google anyway?
Ofcourse, the point that made by experts is that technology cannot be stopped and all this subterfuge is futile. Even more important – those who want these pictures can get them anyway. They don’t need Google! Another quote from the New York times article:
American experts in and outside government generally agree that the focus on Google Earth as a security threat appears misplaced, as the same images that Google acquires from a variety of sources are available directly from the imaging companies, as well as from other sources. Google Earth licenses most of the satellite images, for instance, from DigitalGlobe, an imaging company in Longmont, Colo.
But the fact is that even these companies have to follow American law! That India or countries like South Korea are not over-reacting is proved by this report that Google has replaced satellite imagery of British military bases in Basra with pre-war photographs. The British Army said that terrorists were using the maps for planning attacks. A report in the UK Telegraph:
…documents seized during raids on the homes of insurgents last week uncovered print-outs from photographs taken from Google…
The United States double standards are also quite clear by this report:
…as to why Central America and several Caribbean islands – including Cuba – have been spared. Then it dawned on us: the former is vital to the US economy as the supplier of orange-picking, dish-washing immigrants; the latter an essential justification for the continued existence of the US weapons development programme…
Well, whatever damage has been done by Google has been done. We now have to be thankful for the damage control agreement that is in place. That such an agreement was needed is not in doubt. Why make the work of terrorists easy by providing all sensitive data to them on a platter?
(The photographs have been sourced from theregister.co.uk)