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Censorship Earth Google

Debunking the Google Earth Censorship Myth 294

Posted by timothy
from the just-what-they-want-you-to-think dept.
waderoush writes "There's a persistent Web meme to the effect that Google obscures sensitive or top-secret locations in Google Maps and Google Earth at the insistence of national governments. A July IT Security article promoted on Digg, 'Blurred Out: 51 Things You Aren't Allowed to See on Google Maps,' revived this notion. But the article has been widely criticized, and I did some fact-checking this week on the six Boston-area locations mentioned in the IT Security list. As it turns out, not one of the allegedly blurred locations has degraded imagery in Google Maps, as my screen shots demonstrate. My post looks into the sources of the misleading IT Security piece, and of other mistaken rumors about Google Maps."
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Debunking the Google Earth Censorship Myth

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  • by toby (759) * on Saturday September 27, 2008 @10:27PM (#25181603) Homepage Journal
    Nice work on Boston, champ.
  • Digg? Inaccurate? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Goldberg's Pants (139800) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @10:37PM (#25181659) Journal

    You mean an article that was inaccurate or just flat out wrong was massively promoted on DIGG? No, I simply can't believe it.

    Digg: It's like Slashdot if concussed monkeys took over.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 27, 2008 @10:48PM (#25181705)

    FWIW the Naval Observatory is blotted out in all satellite photos. It's my understanding that this is a "national security" requirement and (besides it being a no-fly zone) satellite and areal photography are required by federal law to obscure it. Since Google still buys most of these pictures from other people, I wouldn't blame Google for this one, per-say...

  • by lysergic.acid (845423) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @10:54PM (#25181739) Homepage

    so you think Google spent twice the amount of money to use 2 separate satellite imaging services? or that they use two disparate censorship policies, so that if the government asks them to obfuscate the VP's residence they would only comply for one service but not the other?

    i don't know if the summary is correct or not, but logic would suggest that Google would use the same satellite images for both sets of aerial maps, and if they were going to blur out a location in one service it would be done to the other as well.

  • by Dan541 (1032000) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @11:20PM (#25181891) Homepage

    FWIW the Naval Observatory is blotted out in all satellite photos. It's my understanding that this is a "national security" requirement and (besides it being a no-fly zone) satellite and areal photography are required by federal law to obscure it.

    That's like placing a sign on an aircraft.

    "No Hijacking"

  • by Legion303 (97901) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @11:24PM (#25181905) Homepage

    But with fewer dupes.

    I'd say the main difference is that a much higher percentage of digg posters are raving morons, while Slashdot has more refined trolls.

  • by johnny cashed (590023) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @11:40PM (#25181979) Homepage
    Also, here is another photo:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:RamsteinAB.jpg [wikipedia.org]

    Looks to me like there is a lot of pavement.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 27, 2008 @11:59PM (#25182083)

    Correct. How would they get a high res shot where there is a no-fly zone? It is not censorship, it is avoiding being shot out of the sky by missiles.

  • by MrSteveSD (801820) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @12:11AM (#25182139)
    chemical weapons factory. I hope that the hidden area on the map doesn't drawn anyone's attention. And therein lies the problem with obscuring secret locations on maps. The mere act of obscuring it announces it.
  • by Eil (82413) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @12:53AM (#25182291) Homepage Journal

    Sorry, but that sounds like conspiracy talk. To me, the white area looks like just a big newly-constructed concrete ramp. I've been seen and been to a lot of airports, so I know what a ramp looks like.

    If you look at the top and bottom, you see areas that are still under construction. Some taxiways and even portions of the runway are bright white. What possible reason reason could they have for "whiting out" the runway's threshold and blast pads? The overall white area doesn't look anything like a building and all the actual buildings are arranged around it, just like any other airport. If you scroll around a bit, you'll see other areas that are nearly white but plainly older because they have streaks of gray running through them.

    Back in the day, I understand that satellite photos used infrared to generate fairly visually-accurate monochrome images of the ground. On those, thick forests and bodies of water should show up black while roofs and roads would be a lot lighter. I would take a wild guess that the satellites which capture images these days use infrared to enhance the visible light photo and brand-new concrete reflects a whole bunch of the sun's infrared back at the camera. This oversaturates that area on the picture and makes objects on the concrete difficult to see. But that's just a theory. I'd appreciate hearing from someone who knows how it really works.

  • by inKubus (199753) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @01:28AM (#25182441) Homepage Journal

    It's a well known fact that the imagery providers have to obscure certain things. Just because a few of the images mentioned in the story turned out to be unobscured later doesn't mean they weren't at the time of the writing. The images are updated quite regularly, and once Google's satalites start working it'll be even more freqent.

    Yes, it's censorship to obscure the imagery, but it's a tough balance to strike. Yes, information wants to be free. And as a taxpayer, it could be argued that you have a right to see whatever your government has been spending your money on. But people in other countries do not. Furthermore, the plans and everything for most of these buildings are located in the bottom of a filing cabinet in a dark basement room with a sign on the door that says "Beware of Leopard". That said, it sure is cool to look at government stuff, and the imagery being available makes it real easy.

    For me, it's fun to find black helicopers and such, but that's basically it. It's just fun to look at stuff. I like those 'eyeball' things over at cryptome.org [cryptome.org] also. The risk is pretty low that someone would be able to plan an operation or something with just the image data. So they take away the fun to hopefully mitigate a small amount of risk.

    On the flip side (again), there seems to be so many secrets these days. Too many, if you ask me. But, hopefully they know what they're doing.

    Soon people will be able to upload their own photos to the view, like in that Microsoft thing, but on a 3d globe like Google Earth. People taking photos from passenger airplanes and such. More private aerial photos and satellites with small resolution and lower latency. It will happen. Google is on the right track with GIS, I think it'll be the killer app of the 2010's. Google has the power to pull everything together, it might take a while but soon there will be a nice parallel universe inside their datacentres. Unfortunately in that world, it makes extreme paranoia as actionable as extreme information gathering.

  • They are all taken from planes no matter what service you use.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 28, 2008 @01:29PM (#25185637)

    Aren't planes basically ultra-low-altitude satellites anyway?

    Are planes in orbit?

I never cheated an honest man, only rascals. They wanted something for nothing. I gave them nothing for something. -- Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil