In the wrong hands, could Google Earth become a weapon of mass destruction?That question has been floated in the aftermath of last week's FBI apprehension of four suspects charged with attempting to explode oil pipelines at New York's John F. Kennedy airport.
At a press conference announcing three of the the arrests, FBI officials said one of the plotters, Abdul Kadir, directed his associates to consult Google aerial images of Kennedy Airport as they went about their planning. Inevitably, this raised questions about .
This isn't the first time we've heard that complaint. A few months after Google Earth's summer 2005 debut, the commander of India's military triggered a mini-firestorm when he criticized the satellite imaging program as a security risk. Government officials in South Korea and Russia expressed similar misgivings.
The plotters may not be the brightest bulbs in the firmament. Still, they believed that Google's aerial and satellite photographs would make their jobs easier. But before some yahoo (lower case "y," thank you) in Washington starts screaming at the top of his or her lungs for a crackdown, consider a few facts. The U.S. government can prevent licensed satellites from filming sites because of national security. It also requires a day's delay before the service can transmit high-resolution images. (So rest assured, if we want to move troops to the border and invade Mexico in retaliation for the Miss Universe Pageant, no problemo.)
If you want to point the finger of blame at something, why not single out cellular phones? After all, the terrorists responsible for the March 2004 Madrid bombings relied on mobile phones to carry out their attacks.
Fact is that the American technology monopoly is history. What with more countries launching their own satellites, there are more eyes in the sky than ever. How do you control that? The simple answer is you can't. Obviously, Google Earth is not the core problem. The challenge is the screwed up age in which we live.