Google grows increasingly irresponsible, partisan, and — as this story shows — dangerously naive.
“We’re not the bad guys: Google Earth boss,” by Stephen Hutcheon for the Sydney Morning Herald, January 31 (thanks to David):
The head of Google Earth has hit back at those who claim that the free virtual mapping program is to blame for aiding and abetting recent acts of terrorism.
Hamas militants in Gaza, who have been firing rockets into Israel, and the Pakistan-based terrorists, who stormed Mumbai late last year, are among several radical groups that have reportedly used Google Earth to help in the execution of their missions.
The Google program marries a swathe of aerial and satellite photography of varying resolution, giving users a bird’s eye view of large parts of the Earth’ surface – a type of perspective that until a few years ago was available only to handful of scientists and military officials. […]
“I don’t really think it’s tipping the balance in favour of the bad guys,” John Hanke, the director in charge of Google Earth and Google Maps, said in an interview.
“The evilness is in the philosophies and the desires of those that want to do evil. They will use the tools at hand to do that, whether it’s throwing a Molotov cocktail, or shooting a rifle or using some piece of technology as part of the process.” […]
In December, a petition entered at the Mumbai High Court alleges that Google Earth “aids terrorists in plotting attacks” and asked that Google be directed to blur images of sensitive areas pending all full hearing.
The Jerusalem Post reported in December that a documentary called The Field of Death posted on the Hamas military wing’s website showed terrorists using Google Earth to plot a rocket attack on a fuel depot inside Israel last April that killed two men.
To avoid knee-jerk reactions, Hanke cautioned that it was important to understand if what people were doing with these tools was any different from what they would have done anyway.
“If Google Earth didn’t exist, would they have used a tourist map they could have bought or was the real intelligence actually coming from an on-the-ground informant who was working in the hotel and drawing layouts of everything on a napkin?” he said.
“You have cars; you have car bombs. You have GPS transceivers that help you navigate; those GPS transceivers could be used for lots of nefarious purposes. Cell phones have all kinds of benefits; cell phones can be used to detonate a remote explosive device.”…