Google Earth to blur key Indian sites amid security concerns

Google Earth to blur key Indian sites amid security concerns


New Delhi, India, 3 February 2007 – Indian 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.

At a recent meeting between Ministry of Science and Technology officials and Google Earth representatives, it was decided that installations identified by government would be carefully camouflaged. This, it was felt, was better than an outright blackout. Apart from well-known sites like BARC, there are many less prominent ones, and blacking them out would only attract attention to their locations.

Images of these locations will not be of more than 25-50 metre resolution, more like the older generation pictures provided by Indian Remote Sensing satellites. 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.

The government list of such sites would be accepted by Google Earth.

In a statement the search giant said: “Google has been talking and will continue to talk to the Indian government about any security concerns it may have regarding Google Earth. “We are pleased to have initiated dialogue with the Indian government, the discussions have been substantive and constructive, but no agreements have been made.” It added: “We have committed to continue the dialogue”.

The controversy over Google Earth’s images had gained momentum after Kalam, in October last year, expressed concern that unrestricted pictures on the web could have worrisome security implications.