Thursday, December 01, 2005

Google's open skies raise cries

CSM reported When the popular search engine Google debuted a free global location tool in June, Internet users were given an opportunity to view full-color satellite photos from thousands of far-flung areas - from the Rocky Mountains to the Taj Mahal. But this fall, Google Earth encountered an unexpected backlash: complaints from government officials who believe easy availability of high- resolution satellite images compromises their national security. In India, President Abdul Kalam expressed concern that terrorists could use Google Earth to plan assaults on the Indian Parliament, which shows up clearly in one of Google's aerial photos. The program disproportionately endangers "developing countries, which are already in danger of attacks," Mr. Kalam said at an October meeting of police officials in Hyderabad.

The images are for sale by several agencies. Countries worried about terrorists getting them must be concerned about terrorists with very restricted budgets, if they rely on the free Google images, rather than paying to buy images with greater resolution.
Other nations have similar concerns. Operators of the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in Sydney, Australia, have argued that Google's satellite data makes their facility a sitting duck for terrorists. In South Korea, officials have expressed concern that online images of its military bases and the presidential Blue House could give rival North Korea a strategic advantage..... But official concerns about satellite images offered by Google might be better received at the United Nations. A 1986 UN resolution states broadly that data-gathering activities such as satellite photography "shall not be conducted in a manner detrimental to the legitimate rights and interests of the sensed State." As a result, UN member countries must see to it that no nation feels threatened by the content of satellite images online
Corporations are switching to Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas, offending the majority religion in this country, in an effort not to offend minority religions. And now we hear that the UN may crackdown on Google Earth, to avoid offending a nation that might feel threatened by the content of satellite images online.
, says Ram Jakhu, a professor of space law at McGill University in Montreal.

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