Censorship of India in Google Earth? Still no decision

India’s The Economic Times revisits the ongoing saga regarding spots on Google Earth that the Indian government would like to see censored.

The short version: “We have not yet decided whether or not to blur some key sites,” according to Andrew McLaughlin, Google’s head of Global Public Policy (is that title a first for a company? How do you get that job?:-)

The longer version — says McLaughlin:

We take security concerns seriously but obscuring images will not help. We have never degraded image quality… The images available on Google Earth are also available for purchase from various satellite companies in market. The government needs to deal with this issue at the level of satellite companies because they are selling images to us… mapping services etc are available commercially… sometimes free of cost and sometimes for a price. If images damage security then they need to talk to satellite companies. Blurring needs to be done by satellite companies… targeting Google Earth will not fix the problem.

All true, but it does bear repeating that while technically “We have never degraded image quality” is not the same as replacing existing DigitalGlobe tiles wholesale with older versions (which is what was done in Iraq), the effect is certainly the same. Older is worse.

Finally, the article also reminds us of Indian President A P J Abdul Kalam’s call in April 2006 for “a new law to prevent foreign satellites from getting images of sensitive locations in India and make such attempts a cognizable offense,” despite the fact that country sovereignty does not extend into space, where these satellites are.