Big Easy Ain’t Easy For Google Earth

    March 30, 2007

Google has faced a hurricane of criticism for changing their Google maps images of post-Katrina New Orleans to pre-storm images. The reasons for the change are flimsy at best.

Chikai Ohazama, a Google product manager for satellite imagery told the AP that the maps now available are the best the company can offer. He said that a number of factors determine what goes into the databases, "everything from resolution to quality to when the actual imagery was acquired."

Some are saying it is a conspiracy by Google and the city of New Orleans to "update" the images. The question would be what would Google gain by deliberately manipulating the images. Ohazama denies that he was ever asked "personally" by city or state agencies to change the imagery. He did say that Google does receive requests from users and governments to update images.

It is a bizarre move on Google’s part to tamper with the images of New Orleans to make it look like nothing happened. By blatantly displaying images that are widely known to be inaccurate they lose their credibility. Besides that their reason for the change makes little sense unless they are just overly optimistic about the progress of the region.

Frank Taylor offers a solution to the controversy on his blog," Google could easily offer a layer which allows the new or old imagery to be shown. Perhaps this would be a good compromise.

"Surely, Google still has a copy of the old imagery. Actually, many GE enthusiasts have suggested it would be nice if Google offered a time selection capability on imagery so you could watch the evolution of a place over time from aerial photography."

Many will be watching to see if Google takes Mr. Taylor’s advice or if they will stubbornly stand behind their inaccuracy.