06 February, 2007

So much for 'doing no evil'

Fresh off of admitting that accepting censorship from China was a bad move, Google fucks up again. From The Times of India:
Google Earth agrees to blur pix of key Indian sites
NEW DELHI: President APJ Abdul Kalam's concerns over Google Earth providing detailed and unhindered view of ‘sensitive' Indian establishments have been addressed, courtesy a formula which allows users uninterrupted access to the ‘eye in the sky' while camouflaging key installations.

Fuzzy, low resolution pictures and distorted building plans is how the government and Google Earth have agreed to get around concerns that images of sensitive military and scientific establishments available on the Web could either allow unauthorised snooping or become a ready reckoner for terrorists.
I have to question the rationale given by the Indian government. While altering sensitive sites in order to prevent terrorism sounds great in print, most terrorist attacks occur in public places, such as cafes, along bus routes, or financial centers. (tinfoil hat) Anyone interested or capable of assaulting a secured site probably has access to other satellite or mapping systems and additional intelligence, be it through another online map service or through more covert means (/tinfoil hat).

This is yet another example of the governments of the world using the catch-all 'to prevent terrorism' excuse in order to justify placing a stranglehold on their so-called sensitive information.

It's only a matter of time until it becomes too difficult or impractical to suppress information on a large, public scale like this. Information does want to be free, after all. When that starts to happen, governments will have to fundamentally alter their relationship to the people in general. There will be a higher degree of transparency, hopefully accompanied by a larger outcry for accountability.

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