Reuters India writes about India’s upcoming national satellite imagery mapping project Bhuvan: “India’s own Google Earth causes security worries”. It’s an article that was just waiting to write itself. While it is competent enough, the experts interviewed — not so much:
But there are security concerns that Bhuvan could be misused because usage would be free.
“Giving satellite images to everyone will obviously have some kind of a security impact,” said Ajai Sahni of New Delhi’s Institute for Conflict Management.
“There is a possibility of misuse of such technology,” Sahni said.
First, if there were to be a security impact, it would have happened when such imagery first became widely available for free, back in 2005 with the launch of Google Earth, and not now with Bhuvan. Barn door, horse, etc.
But a more important point is this: Before it became free the imagery was not secret, but merely expensive to purchase; it was accessible to those with the money and the motivation — such as, say, a terrorist organization, or a belligerent neighboring country.
The only new group of people Google Earth made high-resolution satellite imagery available to is the world’s citizens, the ones who should be encouraged everywhere to make sure their governments and militaries are accountable to them. Starting such a participatory democratic institution would have been impossible without free images. Now that they are free, all the motivation needed is for everyone to want to see their neighborhood from space, because this way everything strange will eventually get noticed and discussed on blogs and forums and then in the mainstream media.
Meanwhile, another “expert” rehashes a very silly idea:
Security analyst Uday Bhaskar said there needs to be a global consensus on availability of such technology.
“There should be a global consensus on what is the kind of technology disseminated and what kind of firewall we need to erect for our own internal security,” Bhaskar said.
India’s government has in fact tried to get this idea implemented as new international law via the United Nations before, as blogged back in 2006. The main problem with Bhaskar’s notion of a “consensus” is that it would in fact be a consensus of many countries whose governments are paranoid and/or undemocratic. If they had their way, Google Earth would just be a fuzzy blur. The radical transparency that Google Earth has brought us is a feature, not a bug, and it does not require interference from dubious new laws. Fortunately, this is obvious to all except Bhaskar and a few other muddled minds.
[Update: I forgot: In other news today: The Hindu writes: “Maharashtra wants Google Earth censored”:
Mumbai (IANS): The Maharashtra government is examining legal options to censor Google Earth and curb it from showing sensitive locations to prevent terror attacks such as what happened in Mumbai, a minister said on Tuesday.
Yes, that was earlier today, sigh…]