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Clear Public Satellite Imagery Tantamount to Yelling Fire 230

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the daily-dose-of-unbridled-stupidity dept.
TechDirt pointed out a recent bit of foolishness as a followup to California Assemblyman Joel Anderson's push to force Google and other online mapping/satellite companies to blur out schools, churches, and government buildings. When pushed, apparently his justification was that leaving these buildings un-obscured is the same as shouting fire. "News.com ran an interview with Anderson, where he attempts to defend his proposed legislation as a matter of public safety. He claims that there is no good reason why anyone would need to clearly see these buildings online, and that it can only be used for bad purposes. [...] Apparently, Anderson is the final determiner of what good people do and what bad people do with online maps."
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Clear Public Satellite Imagery Tantamount to Yelling Fire

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  • the real WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FredFredrickson (1177871) * on Friday March 13, 2009 @04:59PM (#27186145) Homepage Journal
    Shouting fire has two common purposes:

    1. To alert people of a real danger, in an effort to save lives.
    2. To scare people into a panic by pretending there is a real danger when there is not. (for lulz).

    I'm having a hard time bending my brain to somehow apply this logic to leaving buildings unblurred.

    Either you're trying to alert people of a real school/church/government building - to alert them of a real and present.. building, or you're trying to trick people (into a panic??) that the buildings are really there when they're not. That's the only reason to leave them unblurred? I'm sure I'd panic if I saw buildings on google maps that weren't really there. It might cause me to stop doing drugs. Maybe that's his plan all along??

    But then he goes on to show off his USA public education by making the connection for us:

    He claims that there is no good reason why anyone would need to clearly see these buildings online, and that it can only be used for bad purposes

    Clearly, it all makes sense now! Seeing those buildings can only be used for bad purposes- Just like yelling fire can only be used for bad purposes! EXACTLY! There is not a single good use for shouting "fire!" except terrorism.

    Ultimately, the only real WTF about this article is the belief that someone who really wants to kill you won't just drive to your house/school/church and use his eyes to make sure he's bombing/shooting/flying airplanes/melting/flooding the right place.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:00PM (#27186157) Journal
    Default Deny makes good computer security; but profoundly dangerous public policy.
  • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:02PM (#27186183) Homepage Journal

    ...is what, *exactly* he thinks bad people can do with sharp images of buildings that they can't do with blurry images.

    'Cause I sure can't think of anything. That's no proof, but it seems like if this is a real problem he's trying to solve, he ought to at least have some idea what it is he's trying to prevent.

    Of course, his real goal is to get his name in the news, and he's succeeding admirably at that.

  • Big arrows (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kell Bengal (711123) on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:03PM (#27186193)
    This might have an opposite effect. Suppose they /did/ blur out all these sensitive structures. Isn't that kind of like waving a flag, pointing and saying "OMG, please blow up anywhere but here - oh no, please not RIGHT HERE."
  • Re:the real WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrLang21 (900992) on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:09PM (#27186269)
    Not to mention that I regularly use satellite imagery to augment maps when I am going somewhere unfamiliar and want to get a better idea of what it will look like when I get there. There are plenty of good uses for clear satellite imagery of buildings and all.
  • Counterargument (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gat0r30y (957941) on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:10PM (#27186293) Homepage Journal
    The only possible purpose for censorship is evil.
  • Tax dollars (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thesolo (131008) * <slap@fighttheriaa.org> on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:19PM (#27186425) Homepage
    Public schools & government buildings are built using taxpayer dollars. Churches do not pay taxes and are thereby subsidized by taxpayer dollars.

    Therefore, I see no reason why we shouldn't be able to view the rooftops of the buildings for which we essentially paid. If I think the church down the street from me has an architecturally-brilliant roof and I want to look at it, I see no reason why I shouldn't be able to do so.

    Of course, there's also arguments to be made about security through obscurity, security theatre, etc. Tim McVeigh didn't need Google Earth when he parked a truck bomb in front of a federal building...
  • Re:the real WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75&yahoo,com> on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:25PM (#27186495)

    Not to mention that I regularly use satellite imagery to augment maps when I am going somewhere unfamiliar and want to get a better idea of what it will look like when I get there.

    I do too, although arguably street view is a lot more useful for that. You're not going to be looking at where you're going from 200 miles up when you get there, so why do you need to see it from that angle if the purpose is to get an idea of what it will look like from the ground?

    Personally, I'm having a hard time getting really worked up about this one way or the other. Maybe it's because I lived without satellite images for approximately 33 of my 37 years on this Earth without much of a problem, and I don't think we'd be losing much to not have them again. This is not like GPS or the internet as a whole or something where there is real utility that would be lost if you switched it off.

    On the other hand, I'm obviously against all this fear-mongering. I'm not so intentionally dense (as I do believe some people are) as to not see any way that a terrorist could use these images for their own purposes, but that doesn't mean I think it's a reason to blur anything or turn it off. It's just a tool, and like any tool it can be used for good or evil. It's not a weapon, it's not a drug, it's not something the government should have a role in regulating.

    It's more like, say, a pipe wrench. Sure, I could take a pipe wrench and whack somebody over the head with it and probably kill them. I could do it repeatedly and probably kill a lot of people.

    Or, I could use it to fix broken pipes.

    This is the thing with tools. They have a benign purpose and that's what most people use them for. But of course they *could* be used for evil. Are we going to just regulate everything that fits that description?

    If the government is going to outlaw Google's satellite images, then it seems to me they need to outlaw pipe wrenches too.

  • by mangu (126918) on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:33PM (#27186629)

    Shouting fire has two common purposes:

    1. To alert people of a real danger, in an effort to save lives.
    2. To scare people into a panic by pretending there is a real danger when there is not. (for lulz).

    Funny thing is, we keep seeing (2) as an exception to free speech.

    However, let's reason this out. Is raising a false alarm illegal? Is it so wrong that it justifies an exception to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? Maybe.

    But then, shouldn't this be applied to *ALL* false alarms?

    No shouting FIRE!!! in theaters. No shouting KIDDIE PORN!!! in the internet. No shouting TERRORISM!!! everywhere.

  • Re:the real WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by netruner (588721) on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:37PM (#27186671)
    The real fallacy in this type of argument is that the public (you and I) needs to justify why they need something (in this case, unobscured maps). We have no obligation to explain why we need something, it is up to those who would deny us those things to explain why we should not have them.

    This pertains to all things, period. I can easily explain why my neighbor shouldn't have 2000 lbs of TNT in his garage.

    People often forget that we don't need to justify ourselves just because someone wants us to.
  • Re:the real WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by redcaboodle (622288) on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:40PM (#27186713)

    Personally, I'm having a hard time getting really worked up about this one way or the other. Maybe it's because I lived without satellite images for approximately 33 of my 37 years on this Earth without much of a problem, and I don't think we'd be losing much to not have them again. This is not like GPS or the internet as a whole or something where there is real utility that would be lost if you switched it off.

    I suppose the point is that some political berk wants to censor information to the general public on the grounds of: You might do something with it that I - member of the ruling class - don't want you to.

  • by sempiterna (1463657) on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:49PM (#27186859)
    Think about it. Terrorists have a very large supply of money. It would not be out of the question to go take your own damned pictures. Renting a cessna with a Plexiglas bottom for aerial photography only $150 an hour. If you can fly it yourself, $90 an hour. Obscuring online imagery sites will do absolutely nothing and this is just another reason why we should have sanity tests and age limits on politicians.
  • by veganboyjosh (896761) on Friday March 13, 2009 @06:07PM (#27187139)
    What comes to mind isn't an answer to the parent question, but the flip side of it, and a good reason why we shouldn't blur any buildings.

    Much like the "parental warning: explicit lyrics" stickers on music, the blurriness will just attract attention.

    What's that? You weren't aware there was a government building in your neighborhood? Well, now that it's blurred out, you know there's something of political/social value there. Something that would probably make a good target...
  • Re:the real WTF? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Paracelcus (151056) on Friday March 13, 2009 @06:27PM (#27187365) Journal

    This brain-bruised putz is only trying to get people to talk about him, politicians are attention whores. I remember some twenty years ago when Dianne Feinstein threw a small pistol into San Francisco Bay to "highlight" the "war on guns" of course she forgot to mention that she go's nowhere with out an armed bodyguard.

    What do you bet that it was a toy gun?

    Wanna get your name in the paper? talk about the following..
    Terrorism
    The war on drugs
    Gun control
    The children

  • Re:the real WTF? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by camperdave (969942) on Friday March 13, 2009 @06:44PM (#27187583) Journal
    I do too, although arguably street view is a lot more useful for that. You're not going to be looking at where you're going from 200 miles up when you get there, so why do you need to see it from that angle if the purpose is to get an idea of what it will look like from the ground?

    A satellite view might show you walking paths, bike trails, and alleyways that may not show up on a street level view or on a map view.
  • by rtb61 (674572) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @09:04AM (#27191867) Homepage

    I actually like to cruise down streets in differing locations on street view, get a feel for the state of the infrastructure, check out architectural differences, get a feel for city planning ie. see new and interesting places with out all the hassle or cost of actually going there.

    This particular poly (doesn't deserve a cracker) is just trying to get attention, just think about it, it is public space, you can just walk, ride or drive past it. What's next, if is is blurred in street view and google maps you must also obtain a special permit to walk or drive past the structure, and if you dare to take a photo you'll prosecuted for the illegal collection of protected photons. How about if you share a boundary with those special structures, black out all your windows facing them, perhaps banished from you own yard lest you accidentally look at them and will it just be made illegal for you to own a camera because you might take a non-blurry photo.

    The idea is just grand standing combined with a element stupidity.

"Wish not to seem, but to be, the best." -- Aeschylus

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