Governments Ask Google to Turn a Blind Eye

Some of those incredibly detailed aerial images available using Google Earch are making some governments nervous. In Governments Tremble at Google’s Bird’s-Eye View, the New York Times writes about several governments who have expressed alarm.

South Korean officials have said they fear that Google Earth lays bare details of military installations. Thai security officials said they intended to ask Google to block images of vulnerable government buildings. And Lt. Gen. Leonid Sazhin, an analyst for the Federal Security Service, the Russian security agency that succeeded the K.G.B., was quoted by Itar-Tass as saying: “Terrorists don’t need to reconnoiter their target. Now an American company is working for them.”

This isn’t the first time these concerns have surfaced. Gary blogged about the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation asking Google to remove an image of Australia’s only nuclear reactor from Google Earth last summer.

Since Google is simply repackaging imagery that’s available elsewhere, there’s little governments can do to influence what’s included in Google Earth.

Postscript from Gary: Several people have asked where does the imagery come from that Google Maps, Google Earth, and MSN Live Local/Virtual Earth come from.

As Chris points out and I’ve pointed out in the past, Google and MSN are purchasing or obtaining the imagery from several sources. You could also buy imagery from these companies. There is not a Google Satellite or MSN Satellite orbiting the earth.

Sources include:
+ USGS (United States Geological Survey)
USGS offers its own database that anyone can download the raw imagery for free. More examples here.

+ Digital Globe

+ Space Imaging

+ Pictometry
Providers of “bird’s eye” view imagery to MSN Virtual Earth/Windows Live Local.

+ Harris
Just announced deal with MSN for global imagery.

Other Databases for Aerial and Satellite Imagery

Other tools and aerial that make aerial/satellite imagery available:
+ GlobeXplorer
Database of imagery from various providers.

Long before Google Earth/Maps was available:
+ World Wind from NASA
They even have a wiki that features cool locations users have found. In October, World Wind added cool 3-D imagery of the Moon.


+ TerraFly from Florida International University
This service provides something we don’t find elsewhere. Detailed local info for every location. Down to block level. U.S. only.

Also, very new and not a mashup is
Aerial imagery plus real estate listings for many large U.S. metro areas. They also provide additional local data and info about recent home sales.

+ Skyline Software. Download their TerraExlporer app (free) and flyover and various cities around the globe and look at building and other locations from various angles. I’m surprised that some Google competitor hasn’t done a deal with these guys. Very cool!

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