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Google Earth security risk? Pah!

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Letters Google Earth: force for democratic good or running dog lackey of Commie North Korea? That was the question we posed earlier this week on hearing that South Korea is to have a right good moan to the US about Google's satellite images of its military facilities. You can check out the full chilling background right here, but Hugh Fiske wants to set the record straight about our grab of an aircraft-packed facility in Seoul:

Hi, I suspect you already know this but I felt compelled to point it out anyway.. the the subject of the image showing the B52 and other aircraft in Seoul is in fact the Seoul War Museum - see here for more down-to-earth photos (including one with the B52 in the background): http://www.lifeinkorea.com/Travel2/seoul/79

Boring? Moi?

Planespotter, eh? Keep taking the tablets. Here's a couple more contributions on the subject:

Hello,

Your article on the Google Earth is interesting. The question I have is that are we to believe that North Korea does not have their own spy satellites in space that are far more accurate and current than Google maps? The only thing censoring Google maps will accomplish is censoring the public. Anyone with military force also has access to military intelligence of some sort in this day in age. In my opinion, if South Korea is worried about Google Maps then I am worried about the people in charge there.

Thank you, Brian McBride


I think they've been drinking a bit too much Paranoia Punch™ on this one... I know there's a lot of concerns regarding the satellite photography technology (Keyhole first, now Google Earth), but there is still one important factor about this: It's not real-time. In many cases, the images are months old. (When I used Google Earth to pull up my own address, the image depicted that it was still winter, with snow on the ground and everything). Not very reliable for military reconnaissance, that's for sure.

In addition, as your picture of the airforce base shows, many areas are not photographed in extreme detail. While my house in Google Earth is in a high-resolution area (to the point where you can count solar panels on the roof, cars in the driveway, and can see the neighbor kids building a snowman in the front lawn), the air force base you show appears to be from a low-resolution area, where you might be able to make out the general shape of buildings.

In all honesty, I really would not be surprised if key strategical areas like the air force base were deliberately photographed in low-resolution so that they couldn't be used for illicit purposes.

I'm torn between wanting Google to increase or decrease the resolution around my house. Two of my neighbors enjoy nude sunbathing in the summer - One's pretty cute and would warrant increased resolution, but the other one could make a Vogon look attractive.

//Aeryck

Indeed, the resolution of the snap of South Korea's Osan air base is hardly impressive. Deliberate subterfuge or just a lack of decent sat images? Hmmm...

The question I immediately wondered was whether GoogleEarth is coy about US military installations or is equally off-hand about those too. Or indeed about UK military installations (sorry, perhaps one should say US military installations on British soil with a Union Jack flying at the gate - Fylingdales, etc). But no word on that in this piece.

Well, Mr James Minney, we immediately picked up your gauntlet and ran with it. Anyone recognise this?

RAF Northolt, courtesy of Google

Yup, it's RAF Northolt out to the west of London. Not a great deal of detail here, but the place is significant because during the Cold War, it didn't appear on maps of London (even though the main A40 runs straight past it), lest the Russkies pop an ICBM in its suburban ass.

Mind you, Northolt is hardly militarily significant, unlike Faslane naval base in bonny Scotland:

Faslane nuclear submarine base - almost

Crikey. Note the interesting fact that the base lies right on the boundary between an area of high resolution and the fuzzy hinterland of Caledonia. Or does it? Has Google in fact deliberately obscured that part of Faslane where cheerful Jack Tars load nuclear missiles onto Trident-bearing subs? That distant sound you hear is the rumble of black helicopters preparing for take-off, make no mistake. ®

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