Tag Archives: WebProNews

Google Earth, Israel, fact and fiction

Did Google Earth Violate US Law? asks WebProNews’s David Utter in an article that builds uncritically on the Israel National News article, which in turn got its mangled facts from the Globes article blogged previously.

How is this latest article in error? Let us count the ways.

1) Google has not limited the resolution of its images of Israel (see here for more).

2) Images of Israel will not “be reduced to two-meter resolution,” the main reason being that the resolution of Israel in Google Earth and Maps is currently actually much lower than two-meter resolution. Getting two-meter resolution imagery of Israel would require a vast upgrade of Google’s offerings in the region.

Here is what a section of Tel Aviv currently looks like in Google Earth, at full resolution (reference in Earth [KML], Maps):


Here is what that section would look like if Google Earth bought 2.5-meter imagery from Spot Image, a French satellite imagery provider:


3) In other words, it is absurd to write something like “If those images were not at two-meter resolution already, Google may have been in violation of federal law.” But that is what reporters who rewrite stories from a single source without checking their facts are indeed capable of writing.

4) Another reason why Google cannot be in violation of the US law in question is because Google is not an American “private remote sensing operator”, i.e. a US satellite operator, but a purchaser of data from such operators. US law only restricts US satellite operators. Google is free to purchase publicly available data from any vendor anywhere, and at any resolution.

Google Earth and Israel, cont.

If you want proof of the harm irresponsible reporting can do, look no further than how the factual errors in the article in Globes about Israel and Google Earth (blogged two days ago) have metastatized into the belief that “Google Earth caves in to Israel”. Yes, the blog Battleangel takes [(updated) the mangled IsraelNN version of the article] at face value, adds a pinch of presuppositions, and arrives at that conclusion.

So, for the record, Israel isn’t strongarming Google, from the available evidence. Yes, it is indeed remarkable that a US law constrains US satellite operators on images of a sovereign state other than the US (and not for all US allies, but just one state), but if you want to complain, the proper target is the US congress and the executive, not Google.

If you want to accuse Google of being strongarmed by a state when it comes to satellite imagery (be it China, India, South Korea, or Israel), kindly provide some evidence first.

[Update 12:45 UTC: Another example of this meme spreading.]

[Update 12:49 UTC: IsraelNN manages to mangle the original news story even more. This version is truly remarkable.]