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California lawmaker wants to blur Google Earth
yet another good idea/bad implemetation bill
LifeinAsia




msg:3868373
 9:16 pm on Mar 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

CNN story [cnn.com]
-- "An operator of a commercial Internet Web site or online service that makes a virtual globe browser available to members of the public shall not provide aerial or satellite photographs or imagery of a building or facility in this state that is identified on the Internet Web site by the operator as a school or place of worship, or a government or medical building or facility, unless those photographs or images have been blurred.

The way the bill is currently written, if you have a web site that uses Google Maps, and Google doesn't blur the image of a church 2,000 miles away from you, YOU could also be liable for $250,000/day!

To keep this non-political, I'll reserve my comments about CA lawmakers...

 

Rugles




msg:3869909
 7:02 pm on Mar 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

I dont understand the buildings they are concerned about. Why a medical building or church? What is the worry/ Why would a shopping mall or sports arena be exempt?

So many questions, so few answers. Makes no sense to me.

swa66




msg:3870125
 3:24 am on Mar 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

I'll agree to the bad implementation, but where is the good idea at the basis of the law ?

What's the harm in a *satellite* image of a school or place of worship, or a government or medical building or facility ?

The street view stuff: I'll agree it's borderline on privacy issues, but satellite image resolutions in Google maps are by far not high enough to recognize anybody.

Moreover somebody needs to clue in lawmakers around the world that the Internet is way beyond their jurisdiction: E.g. one can buy satellite pictures on demand in far higher resolution made by former Russian spy satellites. Are they going to make purchasing and accessing or even possession of such images in CA illegal as well ?

CWebguy




msg:3870327
 3:25 pm on Mar 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

I dont understand the buildings they are concerned about. Why a medical building or church? What is the worry/ Why would a shopping mall or sports arena be exempt?

From a security standpoint, these are places that are highly targeted.

[edited by: CWebguy at 3:25 pm (utc) on Mar. 14, 2009]

swa66




msg:3870377
 5:57 pm on Mar 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

Before claiming a security point of view, has it ever been established there was *any* actual violent attack that was
  • and planned using satellite images that are publicly available
  • and that this could not have been done using for pay services already out there (e..g the former USSR spy satellites gone commercial)
  • and that this could not have been done by simply visiting the site (recon)

For politicians around the world it's _so_ much easier to overreact than to not react as with over-reacting there is no risk for them:

  • either the measures actually stop something and they can go "told you".
  • either something happens anyway: and they can go "we didn't even go far enough", even if the measures they propose are irrelevant
  • either nothing happens and they can proudly proclaim they prevented it (even if it would not happen anyway)

Don't be lulled into being scared by those you put in power (whoever is in power and wherever you are on the globe).

g1smd




msg:3870380
 6:15 pm on Mar 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

After all those have been blurred, all someone has to do to identify all the schools, churches, and gov't buildings in the USA is to develop technology that scans the entire continent looking for areas that are more blurred than the rest of it. So, again, what does it prevent?

How the hell is anyone going to be able to check every website on the planet for a list of what they don't want shown on the map? And how are they going to explain exactly what they don't want to be shown -- the best way would be a diagram showing the area, and in context with the surroundings, with a coloured line around the edge of the stuff to be hidden. So, in order to hide it on a global maps service they would have to show it in full on their own site - kinda self-defeating don't 'cha think?

Wlauzon




msg:3870477
 11:16 pm on Mar 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

If politicians are not wasting our tax money, they are wasting our time. Gotta love how clueless some of them are.

Swanny007




msg:3870488
 12:10 am on Mar 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

OK well I want the Google Maps photo of my house roof blurred out. How do I go about doing that? Call a lawyer or a politician? LOL

LifeinAsia




msg:3871425
 3:38 pm on Mar 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

And what about the definitions of schools, churches, and government buildings? At first blush, they seem very obvious.

But what if only part of the building is a school or government office?

Can Swanny007 declare his house a church so he can get blurred?

And what about all those secret government buildings that are not identified as such? I can just see the discussion between Google's and the government lawyers:
Gov't: You didn't blur a government building.
Google: Which one? We will do it now.
Gov't: We can't tell you that- it's classified.

Audioforge




msg:3871492
 5:06 pm on Mar 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

If you think Google "Earth" and Google "Street View" borderline on privacy issues, what about the new Google "Bathroom"!

[edited by: lawman at 8:21 am (utc) on Mar. 17, 2009]

cornwall




msg:3871498
 5:08 pm on Mar 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

Yes, you get wonderful inconsistencies too.

The UK government has "removed" a number of top secret American installations from British Ordnance Survey Maps (the definitive maps of the country)- nothing shown but fields....

but they appear on Google as sharp as anything!

Rugles




msg:3871568
 6:45 pm on Mar 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

and planned using satellite images that are publicly available

I believe the terrorists that attacked Mumbai several weeks back had used Google Earth to plan the attacks. But you dont see this politician wanting to blur hotels and restaurants do you.

I really would be interested in the odd choice of buildings if they ever explain the criteria.

Can Swanny007 declare his house a church so he can get blurred?

... and get some tax breaks too!

swa66




msg:3871751
 10:38 pm on Mar 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

I believe the terrorists that attacked Mumbai several weeks back had used Google Earth to plan the attacks.

Let's assume they used google earth to plan it.

Would they not be able to plan it equally well with other means ?
E.g. a tourist guide ?
E.g. buying far more detailed russian spy satellite imagery ?
E.g. by visiting the hotel in person ?

hence removing the tool Google Earth from the attackers hands does not remove their ability to attack and should not be considered.

Let's put it this way: it's a pretty safe bet the attackers sustained themselves by eating rice, curries, etc. Should we ban all rice and other typical "indian" food from being eaten ? The attackers would starve if they can't eat would they not ?

It's IMHO equally ridiculous to try to ban Google earth as to try to ban rice if you're "fighting terrorism".

The best way to fight terrorist is to ignore them. Really: they seek publicity, don't give it to them.

kaled




msg:3871784
 11:28 pm on Mar 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

The UK government has "removed" a number of top secret American installations from British Ordnance Survey Maps

Is that true or something a friend's neighbour said.

To the best of my knowledge (which may be wrong) other than a couple of radar stations, the US doesn't have any "secret" bases in the UK countryside.

It is reasonable to pixellate sensitive/private areas. I suggested [webmasterworld.com] just a few days ago that legislation would be required (albeit somewhat different legislation). However, it is up to government and the courts to decide what grid references must be blurred (and make that database available to those that need it). It is wholly unrealistic to simply legislate that certain types of establishment must be blurred.

Kaled.

lgn1




msg:3871920
 3:38 am on Mar 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

Have you seen the resolution specs for the new GEOEYE2 satelite that is going up in 2011.

[edited by: lawman at 8:24 am (utc) on Mar. 17, 2009]

swa66




msg:3872061
 10:06 am on Mar 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

GEOEYE2, press release I've read says they have capability to go 0.25m ground resolution, but will only sell to the US gov. and allies. Coomercial resolution will be limited to 0.5m ground resolution.

They claim US regulations on the matter.

Harvard has a nice short overview of the "1992 Land Remote Sensing Policy Act" and the 1994 policy on Foreign Access to Remote Sensing Space Capabilities (known as Presidential Decision Directive-23 [PDD-23])

[adsabs.harvard.edu...]

While NOAA does not disclose specific systems capabilities for proprietary reasons, its current licensing resolution thresholds for general commercial availability are as follows: 0.5 meter Ground Sample Distance (GSD) for panchromatic systems, [...]. These thresholds are subject to change based upon foreign availability and other considerations. It should also be noted that license applications are reviewed and granted on a case-by-case basis, pursuant to each system's technology and concept of operations.

There's legislation (aging) on it already in the US. Spy satellites have far higher resolution than 0.25m, these things were (are?) used to count bolts on tank hatches.

lgn1




msg:3872218
 1:02 pm on Mar 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

Re: US spy satelite resolution.

Actually the resolution of US spy satellites is limited by something called the Rayleigh Limit for optics.

We did this exercise in an Astrophysics course I took two years ago (it keeps my synapses firing in my aging brain).

Based on the current maximun mirror size (which is determined by payload parameters of the largest US rockets), we calculated that no spy satellite can resolve anything smaller than 6". With image post processing, they may be able to extrapolate down to 3".

Sorry, the stories of being able to read Russian newspapers from space or license plates, is all Science fiction.

piatkow




msg:3872372
 3:55 pm on Mar 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

[quote]
The UK government has "removed" a number of top secret American installations from British Ordnance Survey Maps
[quote]
I haven't looked at the more "secret" locations in the latest edition but earlier editions blanked all military establishments. I think Fylingdales is still blanked out but Foulness definitely isn't.

thecoalman




msg:3872492
 5:34 pm on Mar 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

I dont understand the buildings they are concerned about. Why a medical building or church?

To get their foot in the door, everyone wants to protect school children right? They'll come back a few years later and push to expand it. e.g first they remove a single product from food (trans fat), then they start regulating how many fast food places can exist in a given area (somewhere in California, yes it's true) , then they dictate that corner store has to carry fruit and vegetables (California again).... 30 -40 years from now we all eating tofu. :P

Many of the laws that control our lives start out like simple and benign ones like this.

kaled




msg:3872545
 6:40 pm on Mar 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

Based on the current maximum mirror size...

Using an array of small mirrors rather than a single large mirror, it may be possible to achieve a higher resolution for a given mass. I have no idea if spy satellites use this approach but I have a vague idea that it has been proposed for a new deep-space telescope.

The maths should be similar to that used with arrays of radio telescopes.

Kaled.

swa66




msg:3872626
 7:34 pm on Mar 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

Spy satellites use a low earth orbit, I'll presume anything up in space gets nearly superhuman care in construction (so the lens will be as good as it can be). Yet, I still think their resolution is limited by turbulence of the atmosphere, not lens quality nor diffraction limits.

The diffraction limit of e.g. the Hubble telescope (with a 2.4m main mirror) is 0.1 arcsecond (after it got its sight corrected), a 4 meter mirror would likely be possible to launch (KH-13 is rumored to have a 4 meter mirror)
The Rayleigh limit would be 138/4000 arcsecond or 0.0345 arcsecond for a perfect mirror. Similarly, the Dawes limit would be 116/4000 or 0.029 acrsecond.

On to converting arcseconds to degrees:
- 0.1" (actual hubble) is 2.77777778×10-5 degrees
- 0.0345" (Rayleigh for 4m) is 9.58333333×10-6 degrees
- 0.029" (Dawes for 4m) is 8.05555556×10-6 degrees

At an altitude of 600km (to get a sun synchronous orbit) [we need to sun to shine, same angle helps as well if there's a pesky cloud to redo it the next day]
- 0.1" -> 29cm
- 0.0345" -> 10cm
- 0.029" -> 8cm

8cm is about enough to be able to tell if that's one or two baseballs sitting right next to one another in your yard.

But this discounts the turbulence of the atmosphere.

(current) Google earth images aren't satellite images AFAIK, they're made from an airplane (not flying that high), it does away with the turbulence in the atmosphere and those virtually perfect lens needs.

g1smd




msg:3872660
 8:15 pm on Mar 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

Short lived satellites are orbiting much lower than 600km.

They orbit just above the limit, where their orbit decays in mere weeks, often just 150km up, or so.

cornwall




msg:3872727
 9:33 pm on Mar 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

The UK government has "removed" a number of top secret American installations from British Ordnance Survey Maps

Is that true or something a friend's neighbour said.

There are a number of decent web sites that you could find with a bit of research, that show three images for a number of installations - ordnance survey, Google Earth & local photo. The Ordnance survey map will show open countryside. The other two the secret installation.

I lived close to one of these places and know (as indeed do my neighbours and my friend's neighbours) that it is true. Now if I know, and my neighbours know and my friends neighbours know, and you appear to know them too, then are these bases secret. Presumably only the naive, or neighbours of friends of the naive, would believe that these places did not exist

[edited by: lawman at 11:00 pm (utc) on Mar. 17, 2009]

thecoalman




msg:3873023
 8:14 am on Mar 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

(current) Google earth images aren't satellite images AFAIK

I've suspected that, when I was still making deliveries (hence my username) it used to take me all over a 50 mile diameter area in a day. On more than one occasion I've seen the same low flying airplane all over the place. Maybe spot it 10 times if not more. It was a larger plane and I'd assume that would be required for a good stable platform, no visible markings on it that I could see... and no it wasn't painted black.

anallawalla




msg:3873029
 8:34 am on Mar 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

A friend lives in a street where nearly 20 homes have been removed from Google Maps, presumably because one person (opposite her) must have complained. When you scroll down her street, you jump ten house numbers in either direction. If enough people complained, it could mess up the product.

Shaddows




msg:3873157
 11:54 am on Mar 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

Assuming:
- 0.029" (Dawes for 4m) is 8.05555556×10-6 degrees [(from swa66)]
- They orbit... just 150km up [(from g1smd)]

My calculations say max resolution is
0.479cm (or ~5mm or 3/16th inch)

Shaddows




msg:3873164
 12:01 pm on Mar 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

Then there's the new negative refractive index meta-materials (see the Metameterial Wiki entry [en.wikipedia.org]) which could make Dawes/Rayleigh criterion non-applicable.

[edited by: Shaddows at 12:02 pm (utc) on Mar. 18, 2009]

Webwork




msg:3873203
 1:09 pm on Mar 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

The constant question, as Google pushes their collect, organize and publish the world's (my?) "data" agenda is will the public ever be fully informed and fully engaged in any form of "should we do this" cost/benefit risk/opportunity analysis and debate before Google presents that data to the world?

Top down images of private property, data of the type that is ONLY available by non-ordinary (drive-by, walk-by) effort is clearly the type of "data" that can give rise to non-ordinary concerns. I expect a level of privacy "from the street" - though I may not expect someone to photograph all the streets and publish that - but if I know that such action is forthcoming AND IF I am allowed to NOT participate - I can always elect to post a sign (please, not global photos) or tell Google "no" by contact form or to erect a visual barrier, such as a hedge.

It's probably a proper subject for Congressional debate and possibly action, not on a piecemeal basis but on a global basis, a) identifying the recurring issues (personal safety, privacy, etc.); b) defining decision making processes (public input, public hearings, etc.); c) articulating minimum standards to insure matters of safety, privacy, etc. are addressed before unleashing the next data project; d) guaranteeing individuals the right to reasonable notice AND the right to opt out of participation in a new "repackage and publish your data" project.

[edited by: Webwork at 1:18 pm (utc) on Mar. 18, 2009]

Syzygy




msg:3873208
 1:19 pm on Mar 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

For two or three years now, I've been harbouring the notion that Google will be in part responsible for the creation of a whole new set of global laws that need to be set up in order to deal with global issues of the type identified above by Webwork.

I suspect that the legal minds within and around Google would much rather have international frameworks of legislation to deal with instead of the country-by-country spaghetti they face daily.

It's not called Google Earth for nothing, you know... ;-)

Syzygy

[edited by: Syzygy at 1:20 pm (utc) on Mar. 18, 2009]

gpilling




msg:3874080
 9:53 am on Mar 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

Top down images of private property, data of the type that is ONLY available by non-ordinary (drive-by, walk-by) effort is clearly the type of "data" that can give rise to non-ordinary concerns. I expect a level of privacy "from the street" - though I may not expect someone to photograph all the streets and publish that - but if I know that such action is forthcoming AND IF I am allowed to NOT participate - I can always elect to post a sign (please, not global photos) or tell Google "no" by contact form or to erect a visual barrier, such as a hedge.

Then what do you do about the aerial surveys? I needed a photo of some land I was building a house on in 1998. I called a local aerial survey company and they made me a very large print in a couple of days. $50 if I recall. They had the negatives on file, just waiting for someone to call. No proof that I owned the property was required - no restrictions at all.

Google Earth is just a higher tech version of photographs from the air which have been going on for 100 years.

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