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Blur online maps to thwart terror, Calif. lawmaker says

By Andrew Heining / March 11, 2009



From the "Does this seem fuzzy to you?" department:

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California Assemblyman Joel Anderson has proposed legislation that would require companies such as Google that offer online mapping tools to blur satellite images of schools, hospitals, churches, and government buildings or face hefty fines.

"We heard from terrorists involved in the Mumbai attacks last year that they used Google Maps to select their targets and get knowledge about their targets. Hamas has said they were using Google Maps to target children's schools," Mr. Anderson, a Republican from the San Diego area, told Computerworld.

The measure, AB-255, can be read online here, and includes the following:

(a)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.
(b)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 street view photographs or images of the buildings and facilities described in subdivision (a).

CNET's Charles Cooper interviewed Assemblyman Anderson Tuesday, and asked him if the motivation behind terrorist attacks ought to be what is addressed, rather than the technology.

His response: "I'm not against the technology; it's fantastic. But we're in an evolving world and we have to change our course as it changes. I'm all for online mapping, but knowing where the air ducts are in an air shaft is not necessary for me to navigate in the city. Who wants to know that level of detail? Bad people do."

Anderson says the bill, which, if passed would only affect California, was likely to go to committee next week, and that its language would most likely change. He has already spoken with Microsoft about the measure, and has expressed interest in discussing it with Google soon.

For a look at some of the surprising things you can find on Google Maps, check out this gallery of curious finds, put together by CSMonitor.com's Jake Turcotte.

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