Have I got a CAGE for you!

What has the Indian government been up to regarding Google Earth since the last time we checked? The Hindustan Times provides an update. On October 2, it reported:

Sources said that at a high-level meeting convened by Cabinet Secretary BK Chaturvedi in September, it was proposed that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) should raise the [Google Earth] issue with the US at a bilateral level. [...] New Delhi believes that there should be an international agreement that before satellite pictures are taken over a particular country, the permission of that country has to be taken.

That’s a brilliant idea. How might that work in practice? Let’s explore with this one-act play:

LOCATION: GOOGLEPLEX, MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA

TIME: SOMETIME IN THE NEAR FUTURE

ENTER STAGE LEFT — GOOGLE EARTH CTO MICHAEL JONES, WITH MOBILE PHONE

JONES IS ON HOLD, HUMMING ALONG TO A MILITARY MARCH. THEN A MUFFLED VOICE IS HEARD.

JONES: Oh, Hello Mr. Kim Jong Il, thank you for taking my call. It’s just a courtesy call, really. I was just wondering if it would be allright to add some new satellite imagery of your country’s lovely natural resources to our virtual globe, Google Earth. I’m guessing it would do wonders for your touri… No? But… [CLICK HEARD] Bastard hung up on me. Okay, who’s next? [HITS THE NEXT SPEED DIAL NUMBER. AFTER A WHILE, IT RINGS, AND SOMEBODY PICKS UP.] Good afternoon, President Bashir. How is Sudan looking today? Look, have I got a proposal for you… [CURTAIN]

Please note that the Hindustan Times article is entitled “Coalition against Google Earth”. That is truly inspired copywriting, and I hope the acronym sticks — after all, who wouldn’t want to join a CAGE?

PS: Google’s PR response team obviously picked up on that article, because the very next day, the same paper carries every argument you can reasonably make as to why public access to satellite imagery is a net public good.

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