Use of Digital Earths for Good and Evil

CH, from Intro GIS, continues our surveillance posts

Google Earth is a virtual globe that contains fairly high resolution images of certain locations on the globe. A multi-featured version of Google Earth has been freely available to the public since its release several years ago. Users can browse the entire globe where they can search and zoom into cities, places of interest and specific addresses. Anyone who has the minimum requirements necessary to run Google Earth, can use it however they please. This unrestricted use of Google Earth may pose an alarming security threat. Although certain government facilities are hidden on it, terrorists and criminals have used what is available to commit crimes with precision and efficiency thanks to the satellite pictures. It is alarming that a group like the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade have admitted to using this freeware to plan and execute attacks on Israel. The use of Google Earth for attacks like this is one of the results of such accurate, complex imagery being provided for anyone and everyone to access.

Another example of when this information has been accessed by the wrong people was the 2008 Mumbai terror attack on two luxury hotels. The terrorists responsible were able to familiarize themselves with the area of their attack that left 171 dead. There is no question that without free programs such as Google Earth, terrorist attacks will not stop, but they simply make it that much easier for the terrorists to carry out such attacks. It makes sense to block out sensitive information and images; however, this alone will not prevent the ability to plan attacks on the public. It would be far to difficult for authorities or Google to screen each user, every time they look something up. This would also raise privacy issues for the common user. The concept of virtual earths is a complicated one that will always have safety and privacy issues due to the function it performs.

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