India concerned by Google Earth

Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam has expressed concern about a free mapping programme from Google, warning it could help terrorists by providing satellite photos of potential targets.

    Abdul Kalam (L) said the programme was a security threat

    Google Earth, an internet site launched in June this year, allows users to access overlapping satellite photos.

    Although not all areas are highly detailed, some images are very high resolution, and some show sensitive locations in various countries.

    Security threat

    At a meeting of top police officials in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, Kalam said he was worried that "developing countries, which are already in danger of terrorist attacks, have been singularly chosen" for providing high resolution images of their sites.

    The governments of South Korea and Thailand and lawmakers in the Netherlands have expressed similar concerns.

    South Korean newspapers said Google Earth provided images of the presidential Blue House and military bases in the country, which remains technically at war with communist North Korea. The North's main nuclear facility at Yongbyon is among the sites in that country displayed on the service.

    The Google site contains clear aerial photos of India's parliament building, the president's house and surrounding government offices in New Delhi. There are also some clear shots of Indian defence establishments.

    Positives

    Officials at Google, based in Mountain View, California, did not immediately return a phone call and email seeking comment.

    Responding in August to the concerns of two Dutch lawmakers, Google spokeswoman Catherine Betts noted the software used information already available from public sources and said its benefits "far outweigh any negatives from potential abuse".

    Kalam who guided India's missile programme before becoming president, called for new laws to restrain dissemination of such material. He said existing laws in some countries regarding spatial observations of their territory and the United Nations' recommendations on the practice were inadequate.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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