Will The CIA Censor Google Earth? - InformationWeek

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5/11/2007
04:18 PM
Stephen Wellman
Stephen Wellman
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Will The CIA Censor Google Earth?

Controversy surrounding satellite mapping services like Google Earth continues to grow. This week Vice Admiral Robert Murrett, the head of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, told AP that commercial satellite services may need to be edited or censored to protect

Controversy surrounding satellite mapping services like Google Earth continues to grow. This week Vice Admiral Robert Murrett, the head of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, told AP that commercial satellite services may need to be edited or censored to protect U.S. interests. Is this just another example of someone who can't deal with the reality of the Web?Right now the U.S. government could do two things to control what images are shown over the Web. First, it could buy all available satellite images and only release what it wants to. This is what the government did during the early phases of the invasion of Afghanistan, but that also was before services like Google Earth made accessing satellite images so easy. The second thing is to restrict funding to many of the companies that provide satellite imagery services.

While these two solutions might work for U.S. companies they won't stop satellite images coming from international sources. And as developing markets like China and India launch satellites and collect images, it will become harder to control what goes live.

I think this is another example of an entrenched institution that wishes the Web wasn't there. Just like the RIAA, government leaders who want to control what satellite images go on the Web seek to institute controls that simply are no longer feasible.

What do you think? Does the U.S. government need to censor what images go live on the Web? Or does it need to embrace the radical transparency that Web 2.0 brings to the world?

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