Social spying

A Spanish-language article in the Miami-based El Nuevo Herald, translated into English by Robert at 26th Parallel, identifies yet another collaborative trend made possible by Google Earth: Social spying.

El Nuevo Herald reports on a burgeoning new pastime among some Cuban expats in the US: Finding what they purport to be sensitive or secret information about Castro’s regime in Cuba and then marking these up in Google Earth via the Google Earth Community site.

What’s most interesting here, I think, is not so much the accuracy (or lack thereof) of the sites that are marked and labeled. Rather, it is that the trend exists at all and that it gets a write-up in a local paper.

The ability for anyone to freely publish placemarks to the Google Earth Community, and thus to Google Earth proper via the built-in Google Earth Community layers (both ranked and unranked), will lead to some interesting situations in the long term, I think. There already are the odd naming skirmishes conducted via the multiple placing of placemarks on contested areas (qv. the Falklands). But there could also be political implications if some governments, unschooled in the ways of free speech, decide that Google needs to police what is published on its servers, or face financial consequences.

I guess I was thinking of China:-) Microsoft has already decided to comply with local laws that severely limit free speech. Such conflicts of interest are bound to get more frequent. What happens if somebody starts correctly labelling China’s missile silos in Google Earth?