India’s Mapping Panic Continues
Last month’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai have apparently triggered India’s long-simmering moral panic about maps, satellite imagery and security in general, and Google Earth in particular. A petition has been filed before the Bombay High Court demanding a ban on Google Earth and similar services because the gunmen used satellite imagery to plan the attacks. They also used GPS, satellite and cellular phones, BlackBerrys — and, oh yes, boats — but no one seems to be calling for them to be banned.
The Times has more; Stefan does his usual excellent job demolishing and fact-checking the petition and the news coverage: “Forcing Google to make imagery of India inaccessible to users of Google Earth in India would mean that everyone but people in India could access the imagery. Considering that the planning for the attacks likely took place outside India, such a ban would have achieved nothing, security-wise. And let’s not forget that people sophisticated enough to use VOIP to coordinate their attacks are also likely to know about proxy servers.” From what I gather from this Washington Post article, the issue isn’t that the attackers were technologically sophisticated, it’s that the Indian authorities aren’t.
Stefan advises not to take the petition too seriously. It’s worth noting, as the Times and Stefan do, that India is launching its own competitor to Google Earth, Bhuvan (which Stefan reported on last month), and, even if the Indian government censored the hell out of the available imagery, it’s a safe bet that the hotel district of Mumbai would have been available in exquisite detail, had Bhuvan been available at the time of the attacks.
In related news, two GPS surveyors in Gujarat were arrested for “snooping around” collecting data for a mapping data provider. The anti-terrorist squad booked them under the Official Secrets Act for taking photos and video of an airport and an air force base, which is apparently bad. Via GeoCarta.