The popular Google Earth program, a free downloadable software that gives users the ability to view satellite imagery from the comfort of their computer monitor, has raised a lot of questions regarding the security of public and private property. With the ability to find high-quality satellite imagery for free on the internet, there is concern that people may use Google Earth and other virtual globe browsers for wrongdoing, even acts of terrorism. As reported in Blakely (2008), one of the gunmen involved in the Taj Mahal terrorist attack reported use of Google Earth satellite imagery in order to map out the path taken over land and sea to arrive at the hotel. This fear that Google Earth can aid terrorism by revealing secret locations has put governments on high alert.
Truly, Google Earth provides the images to the public, but it is the decision of the public to take the images and use them for what they will. Any form of technology utilized by the public is also used by terrorists, from cell phones to Skype and social networking. Having to ban the use of these technologies because they proliferate terrorism is not reason enough to prevent the rest of a country or the world (Schneier, 2009, para. 2-5). Those that want to perform evil will perform evil, whether Google Earth is around or not.
As summed up by Weinberger (2008), “Have the images created a security risk? The answer, according to a number of experts, is yes, but there’s not much that can be done about it.” Of course, we are only talking about a minority of users that take Google Earth and use it for their nefarious purposes, but this does not define the majority of the population. The era of transparency brought about by Google Earth is not detrimental, and now we can see more of the world, and still feel safe because of the technology.
For more information regarding privacy and Google Earth and its connection to government security, check out the following sources:
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
Schneier, B. (2009, January 9). Terrorists may use Google earth, but fear is no reason to ban it. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/jan/29/read-me-first-google-earth
Swartz, N. (2006). Google Earth Scares Governments. Information Management Journal 40(2), 20.
Weinberger, S. (2008). Can you spot the Chinese nuclear sub? Discover 29(8), 30. Retrieved from http://discovermagazine.com/2008/aug/21-can-you-spot-the-chinese-nuclear-sub