Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Google Businesses The Internet Government Politics

Google to Blur Sensitive India Sites 194

Posted by Zonk
from the they-can't-see-you dept.
theodp writes "Citing unnamed officials, the Times of India is reporting that Google Earth has agreed to blur and distort Indian locations identified by the government after security concerns were voiced by the country's president. This includes total blurring of locations like government buildings, as well as the outlines/building plans of key facilities. This came about after a recent meeting between Google technicians and Indian officials."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Google to Blur Sensitive India Sites

Comments Filter:
  • by macadamia_harold (947445) on Monday February 05, 2007 @12:32AM (#17886504) Homepage
    Google Earth has agreed to blur and distort Indian locations

    I thought the US government took care of that already, around 1838?
    • Re:trail of tears (Score:5, Insightful)

      by O.W.M (884392) on Monday February 05, 2007 @02:42AM (#17887206)
      I think this is a great idea. Now terrorists don't have to figure out which buildings are government / sensitive buildings. Now they can just attack everything that is blurry. Makes them a lot easier to find for terrorists.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by KKlaus (1012919)
        I hate to be mean, but this is in no way insightful. You really think "terrorists" are stupid and uninformed enough to need someone's map censorship to tell them what is important infrastructure? Anyone with the resources to blow up a bridge or an embassy probably already knows what a bridge and embassy are, and where they are. Or do you think someone is going to get on google earth looking for blurs, then load up his truck with explosives and start driving? Rediculous.

        I'm amazed that apparently enough
        • by mi (197448)

          I'm amazed that apparently enough people to mod you to a 4 think that the locations of important infrastrucure is somehow particularly "secret," and omg this is a huge exploit!

          You can see a lot more than mere "location" of a building on Google's maps. You can, for example, figure out, where the doors and windows are, or where certain buildings (like the guard-house) are inside a fence or in an otherwise restricted area — where you can not just take a look while posing as a casual passer-by. Knowing

      • by dodobh (65811)
        The terrorists already have high resolution maps. It's the citizens the government officials are afraid of.

        Actually, attacking government offices/infrastructure in India won't do much good. There are better targets.
  • Call me crazy... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by winphreak (915766)
    You can call me crazy, but this sounds like an interesting idea. Sure, it's not the best, but in a country like India, it makes sense. Glad to know Google will listen to a government that doesn't give harsh threats as a welcome.
    • by Loucks (951130)
      No problem: You're crazy. :-) What do you mean by "a country like India?"
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Short Circuit (52384) *
        India frequently deals with domestic terrorism, especially around the Kashmir area.
        • Re:Call me crazy... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by 1u3hr (530656) on Monday February 05, 2007 @02:19AM (#17887122)
          India frequently deals with domestic terrorism, especially around the Kashmir area.

          So? You're implying that terrorists would use Google Earth? How? The only thing that might be useful to them would be real-time displays of military activity. Years-old photos of sites they'e lived near for years will be of no more than decorative use.

      • by Hal_Porter (817932) on Monday February 05, 2007 @01:46AM (#17886974)
        > What do you mean by "a country like India?"

        Not a bunch of totalitarian scum like their neighbours I guess.
    • To me, this seems like a wonderful present to potential insurgents and external enemies alike. Instead of having to scout out facilities and find out where and what they are, all you have to do now is to target any area that has been blurred out, cause you know that whatever it is, the Indian government doesn't want it hit. What a nice present.
      • Re:OK, crazy (Score:4, Interesting)

        by NormalVisual (565491) on Monday February 05, 2007 @01:28AM (#17886900)
        From TFA: Official sources said Google Earth would distort building plans by adding structures where none existed or masking certain aspects of a facility. This could be done without attracting attention to such establishments, which range from laboratories, mines, military sites, space and atomic centres and residences of high-profile VVIPs.
        • From next year's FA: Official sources said Google News would distort reports by adding bogus sentences where none existed or masking certain aspects of a story. This could be done without attracting attention to such news items, which range from Amnesty reports, Chinese Government leaks, reports of military failures, nuclear power disasters, and activities of high-profile politicians.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Short Circuit (52384) *
        One doesn't need to see that an area is blurred out on a Satellite picture to know that it's a government facility. You could just look at the big metal or stone sign in front of the building. Or military uniforms.

        Really, though, people who want to do a government harm don't have to discover targets. Real estate is slow, and governments are slower still. If a building was used by a government 20 years ago, it's likely still used by that government today. That puts the ownership of the building into the
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by The Cydonian (603441)

        Even without censorship, not all locations on Google Earth have the same amount of resolution. Urban areas in 'non-third-world nations', in general, have the highest resolution. So blurring (or obscuring) per se isn't an issue, unless there are complete blanks for certain areas. Which is not the case here, presumably.

    • I won't get into whether or not it's a good idea, because I honestly think it doesn't matter... but what the hell did you mean by "in a country like India"? What exactly is it about the Republic of India that gives this idea more credence than it would have elsewhere?

      By the way, didn't they do something like this to the White House and a few other buildings? I seem to remember something about that, but now it's back. [google.com]
    • by DrYak (748999) on Monday February 05, 2007 @05:19AM (#17887784) Homepage

      Sure, it's not the best, but in a country like India, it makes sense.
      No it doesn't make sense. At a time when the internet provide dozens of different way to get that specific information, be it in several other on-line aerial-photo mapping softwares, or on various other online source, it doesn't make sense to try to restrict Google.
      It's like playing whack-a-mole against every source including blogs and online photo album sites.

      And besides, it's just security through obscurity, and we all know very well how much that strategy works well.
      You can keep secret a small password, you can't keep secret the outside structure of a whole building, that any plane / sattelite / hot-air balloon / small probe / home made autonomous mini-glider with a webcame stuck on it / etc... could see.

      Glad to know Google will listen to a government that doesn't give harsh threats as a welcome.
      Google is listening to a government that is controlling most of the (outsourced) IT infrastructure of Google's home country.
      I think it's wise not to disturb the sleeping Tiger in those circumstances.

      • No it doesn't make sense. At a time when the internet provide dozens of different way to get that specific information, be it in several other on-line aerial-photo mapping softwares, or on various other online source, it doesn't make sense to try to restrict Google. It's like playing whack-a-mole against every source including blogs and online photo album sites.

        Just because one cannot eliminate all sources of the information is no reason not to eliminate one source.

        And besides, it's just

  • my house is sensitive infrastructure. When can I meet with a google technician?
    • Re:my house (Score:5, Funny)

      by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday February 05, 2007 @12:37AM (#17886548) Journal

      my house is sensitive infrastructure. When can I meet with a google technician?


      I saw him heading towards your house with a ten pound sledge hammer, a bottle of ketchup and a food processor. He had a funny look on his face. I'm sure you'll be fine.
  • by Funkcikle (630170) * on Monday February 05, 2007 @12:34AM (#17886520)
    It's all very well for these government types and their top secret kitten-killing factories or whatever, but what about individuals who don't want aerial pictures of their house and grounds online? Anyone looking on Google Maps over my area can see my house, garden and outbuildings in scary detail.


    I'm not saying I am afraid of it happening (I'm not that hysterically moronic, yet.) but it seems to me that the premise of "Google must blur this building because terrorists could somehow benefit from already slightly blurred photos of the outline of the building." applies equally to my house - "Google must blur this area because burglars could use the pictures to plan an escape route along the back of the garden which is hidden from normal view."


    The last thing I want to have to do is put an opaque roof over my greenhouse shrine to Peter Krause.

    • by HaloZero (610207)

      "Google must blur this area because burglars could use the pictures to plan an escape route along the back of the garden which is hidden from normal view."

      You've been in Farmer Maggot's crop again!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Neoncat (1015169)
      Don't worry, if you live in US at least your face is recorded with hundreds of cameras on daily basic. They can even catch you when you are making love. Err... Wrong site to talk about that last one.
    • by susano_otter (123650) on Monday February 05, 2007 @01:02AM (#17886714) Homepage
      I suppose it boils down to finding the right sweet spot between getting maximum value and utility out of a service like Google maps, and eliminating risk to high-value targets.

      No offense, but millions of people probably won't suffer if a burglar plans an escape route from your house. Successful takedown of a seat of government on the other hand...

      Not only that, but any burglar savvy enough to consult Google Maps is probably savvy enough to escape from something as simple as a basic residence without needing Google Maps. This is partly because information about the floorplan of your house is already freely available through a variety of information sources--all of which have already been purged of information about sensitive locations (assuming such sensitive information even made it into those repositories in the first place).

      You weren't complaining last year when your housing development's floorplans were on file at city hall, available to all citizens for a small archiving fee, while the floor plans to the White House were classified and restricted. Why complain this year that your house is on Google Maps, but Indian government facilities are not?
      • by nnkx00 (1006341)
        I wouldn't object to Whitehouse plans being made public or my house being taken off-file at City Hall, really... Actually, I want those blueprints put on the internet, honestly... Isn't hiding Whitehouse plans effectively security-by-obscurity? On the other hand, I'm not going to be posting using my full name here...
        • Not security through obsucrity: defense in depth.

          "Security through obscurity" is the idea that if you hide the information, you don't need to take any other security steps. It's a bad idea for a variety of reasons.

          "Defense in depth" is the idea that the best security is security that comes in layers, uses a wide range of technologies, and makes every stage of your hypothetical opponent's attack more difficult for him to plan, rehearse, equip, and execute. So you hide as much of the information as possible
      • by dcw3 (649211)
        You weren't complaining last year when your housing development's floorplans were on file at city hall, available to all citizens for a small archiving fee, while the floor plans to the White House were classified and restricted. Why complain this year that your house is on Google Maps, but Indian government facilities are not?

        I don't know where you live, but floor plans aren't available at city halls around here. You can find out who owns what house, how much they paid for it, what the taxes are, and basi
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Hate to tell you this, but anything that can be be seen by the human eye by legally flying small aircraft is considered public. Certain large cites in the have busted people growing pot in their backyard using low flying aircraft.
    • . . . paint a big sign on your roof that says, "This is not my house."
    • by Rie Beam (632299)

      "Google must blur this area because burglars could use the pictures to plan an escape route along the back of the garden which is hidden from normal view."

      Are you kidding me? Ever been Geocaching [geocaching.com]? I have been to so many locations that I thought were nice, open places to drop a cache, only to find upon arrival that the images were outdated, failed to show an important detail like a wall, or that some plant life has literally grown into an obstacle since the last update. Relying on Google Maps to plan a robb

  • by zappepcs (820751) on Monday February 05, 2007 @12:43AM (#17886600) Journal
    tide of free information. The little dutch boy approach won't 'hold water' in the age of ever increasing amounts of data. Data that wants to be free, or freely sold to the highest bidder. What should be happening, and probably is, is that such photo services' data should be used by those that want to hide things, ensuring that they have done their hiding correctly.

    If you want to be sure that nobody steals your identity, don't give it to anyone for any reason, or better yet, always pretend to be someone else. Same applies to sensitive infrastructure. The problem with trying to hide information is that you tell people where to look more intensely. This simply puts a big target on those areas for local spy work. It doesn't take much to find out what you want to know about most places, if they aren't hidden or protected with the same efforts as is Area 51. Even if Google blurs the pictures, China won't, nor will any other government with a space presence.

    I think the whole thing is either a ruse, or just another example of people thinking they can regulate the Internet or its uses.
    • by westlake (615356)
      Even if Google blurs the pictures, China won't, nor will any other government with a space presence.

      The problem isn't China. China has too much to lose.

    • by kabocox (199019)
      If you want to be sure that nobody steals your identity, don't give it to anyone for any reason, or better yet, always pretend to be someone else. Same applies to sensitive infrastructure. The problem with trying to hide information is that you tell people where to look more intensely. This simply puts a big target on those areas for local spy work. It doesn't take much to find out what you want to know about most places, if they aren't hidden or protected with the same efforts as is Area 51.

      Well, things li
  • Isn't this sort of like walking outside naked and asking people not to look at you. It was already available, now we all know it's _going to be_ censored. What if the way-back machine actually recorded google maps, you would have little blurry pin-pointed areas to KNOW ARE OF GREAT CONCERN TO THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA.

    How stupid. Do you think the CIA isn't drooling over the exact locations they don't want made available? Or... every single intelligence agency on earth for that matter. So hard to believe
    • Your privacy falls under public domain and ultimately only effects you. (same law that allows me to take photographs outside your house) The privacy of Government installations (when breached) have effects that are much more far reaching.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I doubt that india is concerned about the CIA - obviously the US government has the capability to take images that are many times the resolution of Google Maps. They are probably concerned about countries that don't have high resolution satellite imagery. Like, say, Pakistan, who has supported Islamic terror groups in attacks against India?
  • Architecture and layout of sensitive sites is legitimate information to want to keep secret. If India wants to keep it under wraps, fair enough.
    • I really don't understand this reasoning. How does bluring out sensitive sites help? If I have a hunch that a certain site might be top secreat all I need to do is look at google now and see if its blurred out. If I'm actually going to attack it, I'll just bomb the heck out of it. doesn't really amtter that much If I knew what it looked like before the mission. I think this would only help prevent smal scale attacks by terrorists, but if you were going to go small scale, you might just be better off casing
  • Do no... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jordan Catalano (915885) on Monday February 05, 2007 @12:57AM (#17886680) Homepage
    I put trying to modify world geography to make a buck pretty high on my "what counts as evil" scale. That's Bond-villian level there.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Loucks (951130)
      Do you suppose India knows that "blur" means "nuke from orbit" in GoogleSpeak?
      • Blur, destroy? What's the difference anymore? We're getting to the point where for any given place on earth, more people are likely to have seen it online rather than in person. After that line's crossed, what's really real?

        Sorry. Shouldn't listen to the RiffTrax for The Matrix while Slashdotting.
  • by acid06 (917409) on Monday February 05, 2007 @01:00AM (#17886696)
    I think this is the truth behind all this histery coming from governments directed at internet companies which try to make information freely available (or available in a less-restrictive way).

    I somehow think that this situation is analogous to other governments trying coerce Google into providing their user's personal details or removing content that is legal under US law, despite being illegal in other countries (e.g. hate speech).

    Governments are losing their power and they're not liking it. This time Google decided they could drop them a cookie or something, you know, just to show some good faith. I'd prefer if they didn't blur anything, though - would make me respect Google a little bit more (but I don't think this will make them automatically evil or anything like that).
  • So what's going to prevent someone from asking a local person where the building is and casing the outside for a few weeks? Or going to the library to examine historical records and pictures? While Google may be THE PLACE to locate information, it's not the only place.
    • You do realise that a lot of these buildings are under no fly zones and that you would have the police check on you if you tried photographing them Thats true not just about Indian, but in most countries. In the library, books would have snaps but which would not have any real time implications. A snap of Pokharan taken 8 years ago would not show India preparing for a nuclear test, would it?
  • Too late. I already have photos! Take 'em while ya can.
  • They should just paint giant "BABY FOOD FACTORY" signs on the roofs of all their sensitive goverment buildings.
  • who cares ? (Score:5, Funny)

    by stud9920 (236753) on Monday February 05, 2007 @01:03AM (#17886732)
    Terrorists will just ask their computer to "enhance"
    • No, no, that's not the way it works.

      See, what happens is that a 'cop' terrorist will ask the 'computer geek' terrorist if he can 'zoom in on that'. The geek terrorist will then tap furiously at his keyboard, and the image will get 'enhanced' in an extremly animated manner.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by delinear (991444)
        And then he'll rotate the 2D map to give a 3D view of the front of the building. And then zoom in through the window and use the reflection in a mirror to pinpoint the key government official hiding just out of view.
        • You missed a step. Before showing the final result, the computer will put up a big dialog box that says "ACCESS DENIED" in red blinking letters. The geek will then type in "override" and then the view will be revealed.
  • by atrocious cowpat (850512) on Monday February 05, 2007 @01:11AM (#17886784)
    I did a Google-image-search the other day, and what do you know: some of the images from Japan were heavily pixellated in rather sensitive areas!
    • Come on, the resolution on Google Maps isn't that good -- unless you were you watching Ghidorah getting ass-raped by Rodan...
    • by Rie Beam (632299)
      Is there a subtle message in how quickly this was modded up? Apparently everyone has a couple of extra tabs open...
  • by tcdk (173945) on Monday February 05, 2007 @01:16AM (#17886804) Homepage Journal
    This isn't about security. It's about being able to say that you've done something about something.

    In this case something very important about security. This is what politicians do to profile them self. It really doesn't matter what they do and what they do it to, but at the moment "security" is the cheap way to do something. Mostly because it's so damn hard to prove that the measures are ineffective. It's impossible to prove that blurring some images *didn't* foil some terrorists plans.

    Being able to say that you got google to do something that you wanted them to do, is just an added bonus in the "look how important I am" hat.
    • by mpe (36238)
      This isn't about security. It's about being able to say that you've done something about something.

      If anything it's counter security. Since by doing this you help out any potential terrorists with "target selection".
  • Got to wonder..... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by edwardpickman (965122) on Monday February 05, 2007 @01:17AM (#17886826)
    How long it'll be before large numbers of businesses paint advertisments on their roofs and parking lots? The more people use the service the more the planet is likely to start looking like one large web page. It's already happening in a small way but I'm guessing there'll be an explosion of businesses taking advantage of the free advertizing. Then does Google demand they pay up or get blurred?
    • by Spikeles (972972)
      Heh.. this reminds me of the Red Dwarf books and the part Nova 5 took [wikipedia.org]...

      In the novel, Nova 5 is an American vessel owned by The Coca-Cola Company which was sent on a mission to induce the supernova of 128 supergiant stars in order to create a five-week-long message in the sky visible even in daylight, reading "COKE ADDS LIFE!"
  • Pointless (Score:4, Informative)

    by this great guy (922511) on Monday February 05, 2007 @01:19AM (#17886832)
    Huh ? Do they realize these satellite and aerial photos (high-res areas are actually photographed from planes not satellites) can be freely and relatively anonymously purchased by anyone from companies such as NAVTEQ ? Blurring sensitive areas in Google Earth/Maps is not going to stop "evil" people from getting access to unedited photos...
    • That's not the point. I am sure that NAVTEQ and the other satellite imagery companies are frequently in communication with people from various three-letter organizations (FBI, CIA, NSA, Homeland Security). A business request to NAVTEQ for high resolution images of some government facility in India has the opportunity to draw more attention an investigation than an anonymous access to Google Maps/Earth from an internet cafe in Pakistan.

      • Don't you think that a terrorist would rather ask for images of a whole city or region, instead of specific sensitive facilities ?
        • I doubt this is about terrorism. Terrorists want to kill human targets in order to change public opinion. Once a large enough number of people have been killed, the remaining majority will soon come to the conclusion, "Damn. We should just get out of Kashmir. Too many of our people are being killed." In a democracy, an opportunistic politician will soon say, "Vote for me and I will pull our people out of Kashmir within six months!"

          Targets identifiable by satellite imagery would be infrastructure (water
  • by w_lighter (995939)
    Aim those nuke at the blured spot :p
  • Bomb the blurred areas. Duh!

    Really, this isn't any type of security measure at all. Humm, don't ya think they might have the data on this already? It's not like you move buildings around.
  • Google targeting plugin I figured Pakistan would pay good money for itl
  • by ms1234 (211056)
    I've said it before and I'll say it again: a blurred image on the map will tell everyone that there is something interesting there, be it some big bad uu aa terrorist or some other intelligence gathering agency.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mrokkam (783202)
      If you read the article, it actually says that the images would be carefully camaflouged, not just blurred. So, you see low res pics or you see buildings etc that are not actually there. This has been done to various US military installations already (and even the white house)... so it's nothing new really.

      Quoting from the article
      " Official sources said Google Earth would distort building plans by adding structures where none existed or masking certain aspects of a facility. This could be done without attra
  • It would be very easy to identify sites to be bombed... just go for heavily blurred areas.

    I can see a US defense powerpoint presentation with "proof" of wrongdoing of India, arrows pointing towards blurred sites...
    After all, if you have something to hide, surely it can not be good!

    B.
    • by mpe (36238)
      I can see a US defense powerpoint presentation with "proof" of wrongdoing of India, arrows pointing towards blurred sites...

      More probably would be a Pakistani general pointing out the blurred bits of India and an Indian general pointing out the blurred bits of Pakistan.
  • The British, too, have expressed their concerns to Google, and Google insists it takes them seriously. http://www.networkworld.com/community/?q=node/104 4 5 [networkworld.com] And this homeland security expert believes the issue is worthy of discussion ... not only because his son is about to be deployed to Iraq. http://stephensonstrategies.com/2007/01/29.html#a1 093 [stephensonstrategies.com]
  • How exactly is it possible to cite unnamed officials?
  • I guess its better than China, which as far as I can tell, is totally clone from closeups on both google maps and local.live
  • Enough of these (Score:2, Insightful)

    by caesar79 (579090)
    "blurring doesn't increase security" messages. The location of such buildings in any country is not a secret. The goal is to make figuring out further details, such as the exact dimensions of the buildings, a little more difficult. Everyone but /. realizes that getting sensitive data is not impossible, but that does not mean you go and put it up online and make it easily searchable.
  • They do realize that people can see the buildings by just driving near them, right?
  • No wait (Score:3, Insightful)

    by UPZ (947916) on Monday February 05, 2007 @10:34AM (#17889880)
    The blur isnt as useless as you think. Just about anyone can get a location of a govt building. The blur prevents them from seeing windows, doors, etc for specific planning. It won't prevent nukes, but it will prevent attacks like the one happened on the indian parliament a few yrs ago..
  • Wait. So now, if *I* use Google Earth, here an America, the information Google's providing me is censored to please India?

    Jesus. Even their censorship in China wasn't that evil. This is far, far worse. When can we expect Google search results here in American to be censored to please foreign governments?
  • And this is why, like any self respecting would be world overlord, I constructed all my bases underground - with access being from secret lifts with entrances hidden on er... whatever those roads that are cut through mountains are called.

    Oh dammit... now I've gone and given the game away (again)...
  • by NitsujTPU (19263)
    Google purchases their information from a third party. Any spy, then, could just purchase that data from the original party. What is it about this concept that seems to throw off counter-intelligence?
  • So now, not only Google but also the terrorists would know which key Indian establishments are located where:
    Key establishment is a blurred spot!
    Who knows how complete is the list of key establishments provided to google?
    Also, there are techniques to get information about the real image out of blurred images. This link http://dheera.net/projects/blur.php [dheera.net] is only about numbers but I'm sure there are other ways to get more information out of blurred images.
  • How about they have an option to blur unsightly buildings? For example I'd love to see a forest where Washington, DC is! And think of the ugly architecture of certain Paris Banlieux?

    Sounds like Google is onto something!

Always draw your curves, then plot your reading.

Working...