Clear And Present Danger

I think one of the most amazing gifts of the technological revolution of the past few years has been the use of satellite imagery to create dazzling applications like Google Earth. I just love it, and I love it even more with each improvement in coverage and resolution.

But now, according to a recent item on CNN, California Assemblyman Joel Anderson wants to put at least part of the genie back in the bottle.

Anderson argues that nobody needs a lot of the details that are now available through these services except for people who are up to no good, and he wants to require Google et al. to blur some of their images. Here are the restrictions he proposes:

— “An operator of a commercial Internet Web site or online service that makes a virtual globe browser available to members of the public shall not provide aerial or satellite photographs or imagery of a building or facility in this state that is identified on the Internet Web site by the operator as a school or place of worship, or a government or medical building or facility, unless those photographs or images have been blurred.

— “An operator of a commercial Internet Web site or online service that makes a virtual globe browser available to members of the public shall not provide street view photographs or images of the buildings and facilities described in subdivision (a).”

In other words, government censorship. My immediate reaction, as you might imagine, is strongly and indignantly negative; my spider-sense always starts to tingle at the faintest whiff of official restrictions on the flow of publicly available information. I can see Anderson’s point, but in general I will always prefer to keep the freedom and accept the risk.

Read the story here. What’s your opinion?

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11 Comments

  1. JK says

    Mr. Anderson fails utterly in the most crucial part of his proposal, that he seems not to have done his homework does not surprise me.

    The ship routes, which it seems to me, even Google realizes and presents only the civilian shipping, I cannot see the harm in viewing whether one’s neighborhood is in danger of being so brush-ridden that one might perhaps wish to purchase a goat or two.

    There’s no strategic or even tactical harm here. I would say however, Mr. Anderson, I agree with you, I prefer your girlfriend in her green bikini.

    Posted March 12, 2009 at 3:03 am | Permalink
  2. Jeff says

    So basically, bomb the blurred buildings? Way to go, let’s just mark the targets for them.

    Posted March 12, 2009 at 9:07 am | Permalink
  3. John C Roberts says

    Well, since I have experience with People Google-Map skimming to “FIND INTERESTING THINGS”.

    I found them going into my farm buildings, because, even though they were on Private property, it “looked like” a public road on Google. At least that is what they told the cops and showed a Satelitte printout of the buildings.

    SO yes, something might need to be done. Although the wording might be an issue as noted in the article.

    The above is not a single incident.

    -JCR

    Posted March 12, 2009 at 4:36 pm | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    Good point, Jeff. The bad guys will be able to make a nice list of places that are worth a closer look.

    Posted March 12, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says

    John, “it looked public in this photo from space” hardly seems a sufficient excuse for trespassing. One might think, also, that there is a pretty obvious difference at ground level between a public road and the inside of a barn on private property!

    I hope you are able to prosecute the interlopers, but I’d still like my Google Earth uncensored.

    Posted March 12, 2009 at 4:59 pm | Permalink
  6. flyme says

    It’s one of the most educational and useful things that the internet has ever produced, and he’s gonna ruin it for outlandish, paranoid concerns? What a dick.

    Posted March 12, 2009 at 8:46 pm | Permalink
  7. JP says

    Hey Mr Anderson, add my home to your list in bill AB-255. I don’t want it shown on Google Earth either. Geez, where does it end? And we’re paying you our tax $$$ to come up with this and giving you a car in Sacramento and in San Diego? Get a life and fix a real problem in the State! You know you couldn’t come up with a State budget until it was overdue for more than more than 100 days and now this is your next best effort? Let’s get Google Earth to highlight your home in yellow and we should meet to talk about your worthlessness. It’s not like I can’t go to the bookstore and buy a paper map for $5 myself.

    Posted March 12, 2009 at 8:52 pm | Permalink
  8. Dear Mr Anderson,

    By doing what you have requested, you will ruin the lives of many little kids who enjoy viewing the churches and cool government buildings from the sky. Imagine looking at Google Earth without seeing the cool government buildings like the washington monument, amazing cathedrals… cool churches.. whats the point of even having Google Earth ? Also, the pictures are at least a few years years old …

    -Little Johnny

    Posted March 12, 2009 at 10:56 pm | Permalink
  9. Malcolm says

    Well, I see we are all in broad agreement here. That’s kind of refreshing, I have to say. Maybe I should stick to less controversial topics.

    Posted March 12, 2009 at 10:56 pm | Permalink
  10. Gordon says

    Any small airplane or helicopter with a super high resolution camera will allow any bad guy to get all the pics, targets, etc…in all the detail they want…….way better than google detail…..

    Posted March 12, 2009 at 11:07 pm | Permalink
  11. MikeZ says

    Yikes! That’s just plain stupid.

    – M

    Posted March 17, 2009 at 9:05 am | Permalink