Indian president warns against Google Earth

Says the service singles out developing countries for high-resolution images that can aid terrorists.

Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has joined the list of government officials charging that the geographic details provided by Google Earth's satellite imaging program pose a security risk.

"Developing countries, which are already in danger of terrorist attacks, have been singularly chosen," Kalam said.

Kalam, who is also the supreme commander of India's armed forces, made the comment over the weekend while addressing the nation's top police officers at the Vallabhabhai Patel National Police Academy at Hyderabad. Google has an engineering center in Hyderabad and another in Bangalore.

Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Government officials in other countries, including South Korea and the Netherlands, have made similar complaints about the Google Earth application.

High-resolution pictures are freely available on the Internet and are provided by many sites in addition to Google Earth, Kalam said. He cautioned officers during his speech to be aware of emerging "open-source intelligence." He also showed the audience aerial pictures of some of the sensitive locations in India.

"When you look deeper into it, you would realize that the specific laws in some countries, regarding spatial observations over their territory and UN recommendations about the display of spatial observations, are inadequate," he noted.

An intelligent mining of the data available on the Internet, according to Kalam, could give "indicators of preformation activities of terrorists groups and their origins and their supporters."

Kalam has been a vocal supporter of open-source software and has not refrained from criticizing Microsoft.