Causing Unrest: Keyhole/Google

One of those slippery arguments in the computer/database age — does the fact that the data exists *somewhere* mean that there are no downsides to making sure its available *everywhere* to *anyone*? How do you know? And how can you tell? Google Offers a Bird’s-Eye View, and Some Governments Tremble

Google Earth is the most conspicuous recent instance of increased openness in a digitally networked world, where information that was once carefully guarded is now widely available on personal computers. Many security experts agree that such increased transparency – and the discomfort that it produces – is an inevitable byproduct of the Internet’s power and reach.

American experts in and outside government generally agree that the focus on Google Earth as a security threat appears misplaced, as the same images that Google acquires from a variety of sources are available directly from the imaging companies, as well as from other sources. Google Earth licenses most of the satellite images, for instance, from DigitalGlobe, an imaging company in Longmont, Colo.

“Google Earth is not acquiring new imagery,” said John Pike, director of, which has an online repository of satellite imagery. “They are simply repurposing imagery that somebody else had already acquired. So if there was any harm that was going to be done by the imagery, it would already be done.”