Friday, August 04, 2006

Google Earth : A Security Threat or enhanced life quality?

I was lucky enough to be a very early customer of Google Earth, when they first released it on the beta version. It was not so long ago, but those days (few months back) they didn't had a closer view of Sri Lanka or Colombo. All we could see was some cloud cover when we zoom into Colombo.

But, couple of months back they've updated Google Earth with some extreme close up satellite pictures of Sri Lanka. I could see my home in the out skirt of Colombo, and the yellow Latec busses are clearly visible all around Colombo streets.

Birds eye view of R Premadasa Stadium Keththarama

No argument is that, Google is becoming the big daddy of everything. Up to 80's it was IBM. Then, Bill Gates & Microsoft took over. Now, is the era of big search giant. Before commenting on further about Google earth I would like to share with you 2 real life experiences I had with Google earth recently.

One of my friends invited me to a party at his home. He was in Hokandara. I asked him the directions to the house. He asked me "Do you have Google Earth on your PC?" I said "yes"

Then he logged on to Google Earth, and zoomed into Colombo. From there, he cleverly showed me the way to his home from my office with all the land marks on the way. I then studies the pictures for about 20 minutes, and painted a clear picture my self.

That evening I felt like driving home, when I effortlessly spotted my friends house!

University of Sri Jayawardenepura Sumangala Building on Google Earth

One of my cousins is running an electronic items shop in Maradana. He called me and asked to meet him at his shop. After writing down the address and location, I searched Google Earth, to figure out the shortest and (most possibly) traffic free route to his shop from my office!

It's amazing how easy things are with these technology. Now, for people like me who don't like to advertise much, that you are not familiar with roads 7 streets in Colombo, Google Earth is the perfect solution!

Up to date they have covered vast area of Sri Lanka on Google including LTTE controlled areas. A friend showed me the Tiger airstrip in Vanni, spotted on Google Earth. And there are many "suspicious" white spots in the midst of ever green jungles of Vanni!!!!

Some people argue, this as a security threat. Just as we spot tiger air strips, they can spot all important locations in Colombo. But, did they used Google Earth in Central Bank bombing? BIA attack?

Being a very very optimistic character, I always look at the lighter side of it. Google Earth is here to ease our lives. Now, you can see a birds eye view of your neighborhood, and spot the easiest path to your friends house from your house. And, you can explore some other country's streets while sitting on your seat. I have viewed the so popular Area 51 site in USA on Google Earth!

Sirasa News first is using Google Earth, in their "Around the world in 99 seconds" news item. I've seen CNN using this to elaborate certain positions in Lebanon.

What do you think? A threat to security or enhanced life quality? Do you have any different views?

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6 People Had Something to Say about this post. Read them and add your thoughts....

Sam said...

One can use the Bible to hit someone on the head – that have happened before – that even happen now once in a while – but that do not mean that is the purpose of the Bible.

Internet is one big machine lay all over the world and beyond. That is the first machine humans made this big and collectively involved. This is one giant step toward Class one civilization. Google (& other search engines too may be) is the unofficial driver of this machine.
We can cut ourselves off form this machine – but that can make us cut off from the rest of the civilization. It can be google earth – it can be something else – world is changing it is shape. There are lot more to come.

sittingnut said...

it is a benefit.
and it is not a security threat imo. these pics are commercially available . terrorists probably have even better resolution ones
anyway some governments have protested
see national security and privacy issues

Theena said...

As Sam put if eloquently, one can use the Bible to physically harm a person. At that point would you say the Bible is the cause? No.

I use Google Earth quite frequently and have enjoyed using it, but the thing you have to remember is that that frequency of the overhead shots are not high enough for it to be deemed a security threat.

My school, for instance, has reconstructed a new pool in place of the old one. Using Google Earth I can still only see the old one - and that was demolished more than a year back.

I don't know if the paid for version offers a higher frequency and better resolution in comparison to the free version. However, short of being able to zoom into a "target" and maintain clear images and doing so at frequent intervals (which allows for monitoring of any changes in the layout), I don't see how its a security threat.

Dilsiri said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dilsiri said...

I had the same queries,

What people said.

Chaar~Max said...

As theena pointed out, to be a threat you need to have a higher frequency of updates, if not a live feed. This is clearly evident, if you guys are familiar with Colombo Plaza? They started reconstruction on "Cresecat" over 6 months now, however it's the old "Crescat" we see on G-Earth.

I'm pretty much sure, Prabha has access to a live feed off a satelite, in his High-Tech computer center.

How can Google earth be used for a criminal act? Well maybe those make shift thieves and murderes, could get an idea of the roads and get away points. Hmm so let me picture our local "kudu karaya" at a cyber cafe, checking out the Col. 7 area on Google Earth. he he. (I think they'd rather do this on foot)

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