There has been an age old battle between the spread of information and the security of a nation. Google Earth, a virtual globe that provides free, high quality satellite pictures of almost any geographic location in the world is one of the newest sites of this conflict. Increasingly, governments are getting wary over the revelatory and open nature of Google Earth. With such high quality images available to anyone, governments are worried Google Earth will be used as a tool against them, however, after a closer inspection, it becomes evident that this is a false assumption.
At the basis of this issue lies an interesting claim that many do not realize: Google Earth has no actual classified or restricted images (Swartz, 2006). Indeed, the pictures available on Google Earth are probably available to nearly any major government in the world. With the widespread usage of satellite imagery by modern security agencies, it is almost guaranteed that the images have already been seen and examined by security experts within each nation. It becomes clear that governments should not be worried about other governments using Google Earth against them, but rather, they should be worried about the implications of public usage.
It has become increasingly obvious that the public demands to see and know more about their government. In our post-Wikileak, internet active society, governments can no longer hide information from the general public. Instead of worrying about security risks, governments should use this newfound transparency as a way to inspire confidence among the populace. Even in the event of a security risk, there are safeguards in play. Areas that are of special importance are blurred out and images are not allowed to be bought from commercial vendors at least 24 hours after they are released (Swartz, 2006).
There is only one real risk involved with Google Earth- the threat of terrorist usage. The Mumbai bombings as well as suicide bombings in Iraq have been linked to Google Earth (Blakelely, 2008). Using Google Earth as a planning and reconnaissance tool, terrorists have adapted the Google Earth to their own ends.
Although Google Earth has obvious negatives, we should not do anything to change it. Our tech savvy, internet active and curious population has grown to expect such transparency from world governments. Rather than adopt measures like China and India to create their own programs, governments of the world should instead embrace this new geographic information revolution (Eisler, 2008).
Blakely, R. (2008, December 9). Google Earth accused of aiding terrorists. Times Online Retrieved from http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/the_web/article5311241.ece
Eisler, P. (2008, November 7). Google Earth Helps Yet Worries Government. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/surveillance/2008-11-06-googleearth_N.htm
Swartz, N. (2006). Google Earth Scares Governments. Information Management Journal 40(2), 20.