The Saturday Censorship Special

Once more unto the breach

New York Assemblyman Sam Hoyt wants to censor Google Earth imagery in his state because, drum roll, the US vice president’s mansion has been censored, reports a local TV station:

“It’s a minimal sacrifice for the greater good,” said New York Assemblyman Sam Hoyt.

Hoyt has concerns about what you can see on Google Earth. “The vice president’s mansion for instance, in Washington D.C., has been blurred out on the map,” said Hoyt.

The vice president lives at the naval observatory and from Google Earth, it’s all a blur. So is the Air Reserve Station in Niagara Falls. But Hoyt wants other landmarks in Western New York to be blurred out, in case the details of those places get into the wrong hands.

“The terrorists were actually using Google Maps and Google Earth to pinpoint specific targets at Kennedy (JFK Airport) as a means of going forward with a terrorist act.”

Hoyt’s concerned about the Niagara Power Project. Yes, it can be seen on Google Earth. So can the Peace Bridge, even Fort Drum comes in clear. “It’s a good program available but when bad people use a good program for a bad purpose, we should prevent that from happening,” said Hoyt.

Is there any way in which you can unelect assemblymen who come out with quotes like that? Imagine how he must approach other topics in his tenure if this is how he overreaches on the GIS front.

The most interesting thing about the article, however, is that whoever wrote it asked for a response from Google, got the official line, and posted it in its entirety. I think it’s an eloquent defense, lyrical even, and since it’s a Saturday, why not repost it here, for future reference?

Google’s mission is to organize and make accessible the world’s information. Google Earth is an important component of that mission, as it enables individuals to explore and learn about their world, about places both foreign and familiar, and to gain new understandings of geography, topology, urbanism, development, architecture, and the environment. Google Earth’s geospatial imagery and maps constitute a powerful and flexible platform for organizing information and making local data globally available.

We have paid close attention to concerns that Google Earth creates new security risks. By way of background, Google Earth utilizes a wide range of both commercial and public sources of satellite and mapping data. These sources include a number of governments at the national and local levels. The imagery visible on Google Earth and Google Maps is not unique: commercial high-resolution satellite and aerial imagery of every country in the world is widely available from numerous sources.

Additionally the imagery in Google Earth is not real-time but rather anywhere between six months and three years old. Indeed, anyone who flies above or drives by a piece of property can obtain similar information. Accordingly, we expect security concerns to be addressed primarily by the companies and governmental agencies that gather and distribute the images.

Google takes security concerns very seriously, and is always willing to discuss them with public agencies and officials. Our experience is that security concerns can best be addressed through dialog with the relevant governmental experts. For example, the United States government, in the form of a Presidential Decision Directive, has established a policy that favors the public availability of commercial remote imaging data, on the ground that the benefits to the public vastly outweigh the potential risks. This conclusion was reaffirmed by a RAND Corporation study following 9/11/2001. The government has the power to limit the capturing of satellite images whenever appropriate. Google both supports the federal government’s decision and understands the government’s interest to set limits wherever appropriate.

Google has engaged, and will continue to engage, in substantive dialogue with recognized security experts and relevant agencies worldwide.

2 thoughts on “The Saturday Censorship Special”

  1. Can someone call up Matthew Broderick and ask him to get on that War Games 2 script? I think it’s about time with all this paranoia.

  2. So, in other words, Google is telling the Assemblyman to go jump in a lake. I love it!! Sometimes I think we are too paranoid.


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