FREE PRESS -- Greg Sterling, writing at SearchEngine.com, reports that in reaction to the Mumbai terrorists statement that they used Google Maps as a planning tool, a California Assemblyman from El Cajon
has introduced a bill which would not allow online mapping tools from
companies like Google Inc. to provide aerial or satellite images of
schools, places of worship, government buildings and medical facilities
unless they have been blurred.
Microsoft, Yahoo!, MapQuest, Ask and others that offer satellite maps
and related imagery. According to a news article the Assemblyman, Joel Anderson, said:
What my bill does is limit the level of detail [ in
Google Earth ]. It doesnt stop people from getting directions. We
dont need to help bad people map their next target. What is the
purpose of showing air ducts and elevator shafts? It does no good.
As introduced, AB 255 would prohibit
Sterling wonders if regulating Internet delivery of satellite images this way is a wise choice of priorities.
If you live in the world of technology its easy to quickly dismiss
something like this as naive or reactionary or both. That was my first
impulse. But its also important to recognize the concerns at the heart
of this bill, which is unlikely to pass, as legitimate. Technology is
moving much faster than the human ability to assimilate and cope with
it. To some degree, efforts like this stem from frustration over that
fact and represent an attempt to do something to address real or
Terrorists are in fact using these tools but they also use other
tools as well. The question is: where do we put our efforts and focus?
Would Assemblyman Anderson be equally disposed to limiting access to
guns and clamp down on automatic weapons trafficking because automatic
weapons are used in these attacks? I dont know his personal views on
guns but Republicans in the US have historically been reluctant to
regulate guns in any way. (Im not trying to suggest that theres any
analogy between guns and online mapping tools.) In this context its
quite silly to argue that mapping should be regulated when theres a
corresponding refusal to pursue much more dangerous instruments of
Limiting sensitive information displayed in online mapping has its
place but what information should be considered sensitive? Indeed,
those limitations or restrictions should be defined very narrowly.
These tools are now very valuable to people in their daily lives and
should remain generally accessible.