The Lines Between Maps and Security Blur

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News Posted: Thu, Mar 12 2009 12:43 AM

California Assemblyman Joel Anderson (R-El Cajon) has proposed legislation that would probably make people look askance at California again. Seriously, he has proposed AB-255, a bill that would require online mapping services such as Google Earth to blur satellite images of schools, hospitals, churches, and government buildings, all in the name of security.

Those not in compliance would face heavy fines, $250,000 for each day, in fact.

The bill states:
(a) An operator of a commercial Internet Web site or online service that makes a virtual globe browser available to members of the public shall not provide aerial or satellite photographs or imagery of a building or facility in this state that is identified on the Internet Web site by the operator as a school or place of worship, or a government or medical building or facility, unless those photographs or images have been blurred.

(b) An operator of a commercial Internet Web site or online service that makes a virtual globe browser available to members of the public shall not provide street view photographs or images of the buildings and facilities described in subdivision (a).

Yep, (b) indicates no Google Street View either. Street View has previously been banned from U.S. military bases. And of course, this bill would affect other services, too, such as Microsoft's Virtual Earth.

Here's what Anderson told Computerworld:
"We heard from terrorists involved in the Mumbai attacks last year that they used Google Maps to select their targets and get knowledge about their targets. Hamas has said they were using Google Maps to target children's schools," said Anderson. "What my bill does is limit the level of detail. It doesn't stop people from getting directions. We don't need to help bad people map their next target. What is the purpose of showing air ducts and elevator shafts? It does no good."
Here's what Anderson said in a Q&A with C|Net:
"I'm not against the technology; it's fantastic. But we're in an evolving world and we have to change our course as it changes. I'm all for online mapping, but knowing where the air ducts are in an air shaft is not necessary for me to navigate in the city. Who wants to know that level of detail? Bad people do."
Troop movements, predator aircraft, that sort of thing, I can definitely see blurring, but perhaps we can use this tech to our advantage, as well. After all, the Allies fooled the Germans into believing the Normandy invasion was going to hit somewhere else by using Patton and his phantom army.

However, it's nice to see the GOP is continuing their efforts to scare Americans. On the other hand, he might have a point. What do you readers think?

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Jeremy replied on Thu, Mar 12 2009 7:56 AM

I think "blurred" is an insufficient term for what they're asking for, the bill is poorly written. I've seen very few GoogleMaps images from my area where you could pinpoint "air ducts and elevator shafts" easily. Part b is just ridiculous.

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AjayD replied on Thu, Mar 12 2009 10:40 AM

Regardless of how good Google Earth or Street View get, they will never be a comparable substitute to actually being there in person. I am sure any terrorists who are committed enough to sacrifice their own life are going to put the necessary effort into reconnaissance.

Yet another fine example of your tax dollars hard at work.


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3vi1 replied on Fri, Mar 13 2009 12:58 AM

C'mon guys... It's not like they really should have been spending the time finding ways to revitalize the economy or something.

And, it's not like the terrorist could just go to a lot of those school and churches internet sites and find directions and interior photos.

Also: Terrorists can't drive a truck of explosives into a building or walk into a crowd with a bomb if it's blurred? It's a fact. Well, maybe not a fact - but it could be a law, and that's just as good, right?

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?


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