December 20, 2005

"Terrorists don't need to reconnoiter their target. Now an American company is working for them."

The problem with Google Earth.


Dave said...

The key passage from the article you link to:

American experts in and outside government generally agree that the focus on Google Earth as a security threat appears misplaced, as the same images that Google acquires from a variety of sources are available directly from the imaging companies, as well as from other sources. Google Earth licenses most of the satellite images, for instance, from DigitalGlobe, an imaging company in Longmont, Colo.

"Google Earth is not acquiring new imagery," said John Pike, director of, which has an online repository of satellite imagery. "They are simply repurposing imagery that somebody else had already acquired. So if there was any harm that was going to be done by the imagery, it would already be done."

Having used Google Earth (which is different than the satellite views you can retrive via, it seems that the level of detail is woefully inadquate to plan an attack, much less figure out how to get from, say, the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre.

Finally, as mentioned in the article, if the level of detail were sufficient for an attack to be planned, one would suspect that such an attack would have already happened, as these images have been available previously.

Maybe these countries' defense ministers complaining about Google Earth is just sour grapes.

Dave said...

Also, another note bears mentioning: the satellite imagery is not especially high-resolution, at least as compared to what out military's spy planes and satellites are capable of.

Based on a cursory review of Google Earth's shots of Manhattan, the resolution does not appear to be much finer than 3 or 4 yards (you can see individual cars, but you cannot determine make, model, license plates, indidual people, mailbozes, etc.)

Ron said...

What a joke! Makes me wonder if in the '50's the Times would have had a piece entitled, "Rand McNally: Minion of Stalin?"

brylin said...

I've had Google Earth for several months now and I think it's great! I once lived in Asmara, Eritrea, Africa (34 years ago) and although the images are blurry, I can make out the airport and other landmarks, as well as the road down the 8000 ft. plateau to the Red Sea.

The resolutions for Manhattan are much better showing cars and rooftops. Resolutions differ depending on various factors including security concerns. In Venice, for example, you can make out the Grand Canal. But in Iran, Tehran is blurry and the green of the Elburz mountains and the Caspian Sea area are not very detailed.

And where I live, I found my house with my daughter's car parked in the driveway. The image must have been taken in April because there were no leaves on the trees and in May she totalled it and now has a jeep.

If you enjoy travelling I highly recommend the program (you must have broadband internet).

Senescent Wasp said...

Operation Tempest Teacup is operational. All media units on the MSM AlienNation network be advised. Enough links have now been established. Upon receiving a Slow News Day Alert, media units are authorized six column inches or their electronic equivalent.

All efforts made by subordinate units shall be indexed with the following keywords: Booga-Booga, Big-Brother, Corporate-Bash. Other keywords will be issued as necessary.

Not currently Authorized:

At the present time no inferences that Google Earth (GE) is real time is authorized. If this inference is authorized, the appropriate head gear; Hat, Foil; 1 each will be issued.

At the current time no subordinate units shall mention the fact that the imagery in GE is not current or that resolution varies wildly.

Upon receipt all media units shall implement Operation Tempest Teacup