It’s a sad day for journalism when this article gets published in a supposedly serious British paper: Telegraph: Insurgents ‘using Google Earth’
The two specific errors are rather egregious:
1) The title says “Insurgents ‘using Google Earth'”, but the first paragraph already distances itself from that claim: “Insurgents could be using satellite images from a popular website to mount attacks on British and American bases in Iraq, defence experts said last night.”
In other words, these experts don’t know if terrorists are using Google Earth. Who, then, said that they are? The only source maintaining that this is actually the case is an anonymous, apocryphal “marine” who’s posted a rant that’s been circulated on blogs of a certain persuasion. Kathryn Cramer has already done an excellent job debunking this particular meme. The likelihood is strong that it’s a hoax, simply. Fine basis for an article in the Torygraph, though — one source, anonymous even to the journalist, who learns about it on the lunatic fringes of the internet.
2) “The Google Earth website, which uses free software downloaded from the internet, …” This is just so clueless on so many levels. Has the reporter, Jasper Copping, even used Google Earth?
For good measure, the Telegraph gets a Tory MP to pander:
The Conservative MP James Arbuthnot, who is the chairman of the House of Commons defence select committee, last night promised to look into the claims.
One day, someone will use Google Earth (or ESRI ArcGIS Explorer, or MSN Local) as part of the planning in a terrorist attack. That’s because Google Earth is one of the most versatile tools for geospatial analysis, and it is the product of the inevitable marriage between satellite imagery, the public internet and 3D display technology. When these people inevitably do end up using Google Earth to do harm, bear in mind that they also used email instead of letters, mobile phones instead of CB radios, cars instead of donkeys, computers instead of typewriters and credit cards instead of barter. The benefits of all these technologies far outweigh the harm they can do in the wrong hands. Today’s neo-luddite hacks lack that crucial insight, however.