Secrecy News

Anxious Governments React to Google Earth

The easy availability of high-resolution imagery of much of the Earth’s surface through Google Earth has presented a significant challenge to longstanding secrecy and national security policies, and has produced several distinct types of reactions from concerned governments, according to a recent report (pdf) from the DNI Open Source Center (OSC).

“As the initial shock wore off, five main responses to the ‘Google threat’ emerged from nations around the world: negotiations with Google, banning Google products, developing a similar product, taking evasive measures, and nonchalance,” the OSC report said.

The report documents these responses with citations to published news sources. It also notes several incidents in which terrorists or irregular military forces reportedly used Google Earth to plan or conduct attacks.

The OSC report has not been approved for public release, but a copy was obtained by Secrecy News. See “The Google Controversy — Two Years Later,” Open Source Center, 30 July 2008.

Further background on the impact of commercial satellite imagery may be found in “Can You Spot the Chinese Nuclear Sub?” by Sharon Weinberger, Discover, August 2008.

Due to government restrictions, lawsuits or other arrangements with Google, quite a few locations have been excluded from detailed coverage in Google Earth. Many of these were identified in “Blurred Out: 51 Things You Aren’t Allowed to See on Google Maps,” IT Security, July 15, 2008.

Both articles were cited by the OSC in its new report.

2 thoughts on “Anxious Governments React to Google Earth

  1. For fifteen years I have been researching weapon systems, reading books like, The Great Book Of Fighters, Jane’s American Fighting Aircraft, Rand McNally Encyclopedia Of Military Aircraft, Jane’s Weapon Systems 1988-1990, Jane’s All The World Aircraft 1995-96, Jane’s Fighting Ships 1990-91, The Air Force, and many more. With a overall total of 200 in reference of books, and software to provide a wealth of knowledge in providing details of weapon systems and locations, it is a easy task to use Google map to give detail locations of targets. The point is, you have to know what to look for to be useful or a concern to other nations.

  2. Michael-
    The point is some people know what to look for and are therefor a concern to other nations…

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