Media Watch: Playing the flight tracking blame game

Israel’s Haaretz has a piece out from yesterday that starts like this:

Service that allows anyone to track flights could assist terrorists

By Haaretz Staff and Channel 10

A new feature offered by Google allows anyone with an internet connection to track the flight routes of all planes arriving at or departing from the United States in real time.

For many bored surfers, this may be just another gimmick, but experts fear the new service could serve as a tool in the hands of terrorists.

That’s the introduction to a 2-minute video report that lines up a bunch of Israeli security experts berating Google for this “new feature”. (Click on the story above to see the video.)

The only problem? Nobody, not the reporter nor the experts, has any clue what they are talking about. The “feature” isn’t new, and it isn’t Google’s. It is fboweb’s flight tracking tool, available since December 2005.

This is incompetence on the part of Haaretz that borders on the unethical, as it is clearly conducive to the kind of misinformed public hysteria already evident in the comments on the piece. Next, they’ll be blaming Microsoft Internet Explorer for allowing terrorists to use chat rooms.

With all that out of the way, there is still the question: Does fboweb’s KML network links of live flight positions facilitate the work of terrorists? Such flight information is in the public domain. It takes a smart kid to write a script that scrapes coordinates on web pages and turns them into KML, so if fboweb didn’t exist, only terrorists without recourse to a geeky second cousin would be at a disadvantage. Hoping that your enemies are idiots is not the best defense… (Thanks to Jackson Pollock for the heads-up)

4 thoughts on “Media Watch: Playing the flight tracking blame game”

  1. I’m about 99.99% sure that all flight tracking data available on the web is delayed at least 5 minutes.

  2. Are you kidding me? Another one? Do these people do any research about where these datas come from?

    Here, let’s go to

    Pick an airline!

    MyRatePlan!’s Aerotrack! Pick a flight number!


    Come on, people! This is paranoia and disinformation! These services have existed for years! Just do a quick search for ‘realtime flight tracker’!

    Seriously, I think people are losing their minds.

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