So a few days ago, we reported that it looked like terrorists were using Google Earth to plan attacks in Iraq. Ogle Earth has done some further digging up, and it looks like Google has actual changed its satellite imagery, perhaps, in reaction to the report.
In fact, it looks like Google Earth has replaced the current image of Basra with images that are a few years old, just before the war.
Currently, images in Google Earth of Basra are from 2002, months before war. Up until a recent update, the images were likely from late 2004 and/or 2005. You can tell by engaging in a little forensic mapping, using Google Earth’s built-in “Digital Globe Coverage” layer (which provides dates for its imagery), the Google Tile Comparison tool (which shows you what previous datasets looked like) and also with a little help from Google Earth Community.
Furthermore, it looks like the digital images which were previously available for sale at DigitalGlobe, have also been pulled, and also reflect imagery from 2002.
In spite of prior attempts at getting Google Earth to censor its images, it looks like this is the first documented attempt of Google censoring itself. I’ve got to agree with Ogle Earth on this one: the slippery slope argument is easily invoked, and its hard to imagine where it will start censoring itself next, and for what reason.
The other issue is the issue of liability, as some soldiers stationed in the area have made claims that Google would be liable if they suffered any injuries or deaths due to “intelligence” that Google Earth may have provided the terrorists.