Indian military re Google Earth: What threat?

And while we’re on the topic (see previous post), The Australian, a real newspaper, actually interviewed actual Indian military personnel (unlike the Times of India) and manages to get quotes such as these:

“I don’t think it poses a security threat,” C. Uday Bhaskar, the deputy head of New Delhi military think tank the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses said.

An Indian navy source said the pictures in themselves “do not pose a serious threat to security”.

Another army officer, who wished to remain unidentified, agreed.

“Everyone knows where the (Indian) president’s palace is, everyone knows how many rooms it has – these details are there in school books. As for the location, there is no mystery about that either.”

The officer noted that satellite imagery is not a foolproof tool, and cited the US’ failure to detect preparations for India’s May 1998 nuclear tests.

What’s interesting is another case discussed in the article — when India moved tanks closer to the Pakistani border during the 2002 escalation, the US did pick this up via their satellites, and “asked” India about it. This is precisely the kind of intelligence that Google does not provide, however — Google Earth’s priority is showing images taken when skies are clear, not when tanks are moving. And as we’ve learned from the challenges of acquiring fresh images post-Pakistan earthquake, clear skies are not nearly as prevalent as we think, and thus images are refreshed at best intermittently.

5 thoughts on “Indian military re Google Earth: What threat?”

  1. Dont you get the point ?? The issue is not one of national security only. Why is Google blurring US military installations but not those of other countries.

    Try to keep focus here. There are enough loonies around spewing bullshit.

  2. Hi Arzan,

    Glad you brought the issue of hypocrisy up.

    Please point to the blurred bases you are referring to. I know of just one. There used to be more, But as Google updates the US with new data, they are being unblurred. The reason is that Google can in fact show whatever information it wants that is in the public domain.

    The reason some military bases in the US were blurred when Google Earth first launched is because American satellite image providers, from which Google often buys data, are indeed obliged to put restrictions on some areas, by US law. But Google is under no obligation to buy from American companies, and this is why with every subsequent data update previously blurred areas have become crystal clear. Check out the White House, for example — it’s an often used example in India of censorship, but it is in fact unblurred, and this is something that any investigative journalist worth his salt (or a blogger) can find out for themselves. Blindly reporting somebody else’s “facts” is just sloppy. Area 51 is also unblurred.

    The overall picture, then, is that Google is actively making sure that blurred areas in the original dataset it bought from American companies are replaced with sharp data in subsequent updates. How exactly is that hypocritical?

    If you want to know more read these posts:

    Google Earth: Menace II Society

    New US guidelines for disseminating aerial imagery

  3. Stefan

    It’s only now that Google is undoing its wrong. I can accept that and get your point.

    This debate has been going on for a long time, and has been in the Indian media for a very long time….at least 3-4 months.

    From your blog i understand your liking for Google Earth. I like it too and make use of the Pro version everyday in my work as an urban designer practising from New York and doing projects all over the world, through my office.

  4. I’m not that concerned about the timing or apportioning blame if we both agree that the solution to the discrepancy is to have less censorship across the board to even the playing field, rather than more.

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