Google Earth has become a critical part of today’s technological world. It has provided all portions of the globe with access to a 3-D satellite rendering of our planet complete with layers of information for innovation and education. From its use by scientists to analyze data easier than ever before to its simple ability to provide any web surfer with an overhead shot of his or her house, Google Earth has shown its worth to society and appears to be ready to develop even further. However, this new technology is not free of controversy: its ability to show anything on the entire globe from above has frightened many into believing that terrorists will use this information to their advantage, exploiting the images to plan attacks on locations of their choice. Worriers need not fear: Google Earth is far from the most potent imagery available for terror, and its great potential should be enough alone to elicit support.
Evidence suggests that Middle-Eastern militants in Israel and Pakistan have already used Google Earth to carry out their attacks (Hutcheon, 2009). Naturally, the militaries of the world have responded: Google has reported that three countries have contacted them with concerns regarding these satellite images of their military bases. Though a few of these exposed areas have been blurred for security reasons, Google continues to operate its virtual globe with many of these secure locations in plain sight (The Economist, 2007). Even the United States Defense Department has been worried enough to keep Google from taking pictures of military bases for Google’s more detailed Street View layer, which features actual photographs taken from a van (Miles, 2008).
However, does this issue truly deserve so much concern, or is this driven by people overreacting out of fear? A rational opinion should lean toward the latter. It is important for citizens to remember that better technology than Google Earth exists for terrorists to use. Militaries and other groups can gain overhead images of a much clearer resolution from commercial satellite imagery companies such as GeoEye (Eisler, 2008). While this higher quality information is not free, it is difficult to believe that any terrorist group or intelligence agency would simply rely on Google Earth to accomplish their task – Google’s images are usually up to three years old. Furthermore, as Bruce Schneier (2009) of The Guardian points out, terrorists have been abusing every new type of technology for years. Cell phones, e-mail, radios, airplanes, and even Skype have been described as instruments of evil. Part of life is dealing with the fact that people will abuse new improvements in technology. People should focus on fighting terrorist use of commercial imagery instead of Google Earth. Google is not to blame; it has created a product that has revolutionized the way in which internet users see the globe, and thus should be congratulated for its achievement instead of being criticized for the way in which a few evil minds have chosen to use Google Earth to their advantage.