The Dutch are discovering that the latest Maps and Earth dataset update for the Netherlands includes censored areas, such as of the Ministry of Defence and the headquarters of the Dutch airforce (KML). (Google Earth Blog‘s Frank Taylor noted soon after the updates on Google Earth Community that this Dutch air base was blurred.)
What’s interesting is that the imagery carries no attribution (zoom close enough, be sure to turn off place names), yet the resolution of the uncensored parts is among the highest available in Google Earth. This leads me to suspect that the data is of governmental origin — hence maybe cheap or free, but not unretouched. I wonder if Google has a policy on accepting such datasets (and if so, if it might want to articulate it) — the trade-off means it’s not a completely free lunch, and it opens the door to charges of hypocrisy by the more paranoid government ministers in India. The dataset of Bergen, Norway, which the city recently donated to Google, will likely also have censored areas if/when it is included in a future update.
At least on the Dutch maps the censored areas are clearly marked as such, instead of camouflaged (as is the case on official Swedish and Norwegian maps). This preserves trust in the maps and avoids users being lied to.
[Update 1:03 UTC: Forgot to add a proposed policy for Google: Accept datasets from governmental sources that include blurred/speckled areas if these areas still have a higher resolution than the old imagery being replaced. That might even be the case in the Netherlands.]
[Upfate 23:25 UTC: Story updated]