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Google Maps Takes Dual Approach To D.C.

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Here we go again with Google Maps and censorship; regardless of which side you’ve taken in this debate, you can’t help but sigh.  The battleground is Washington, D.C. this time, and the specific issue involves Google’s mix of new and old imagery.

“When Google updated its satellite maps of Washington in June, it had two options: Use the newest, most detailed aerial photos from a government agency that blocks such top-security spots as the White House and the U.S. Capitol, or continue to use older, less-detailed images from a private company that doesn’t block out anything,” reports the Washington Post’s Jenna Johnson.

“The compromise?  Google chose the new maps for most of the city but spliced in the older, fuzzier ones for about one-sixth of the District to include an unblocked view of the president’s home and the Capitol.”

That’s probably bad enough, in the minds of some – Google Maps’s fans have often condemned anything resembling censorship.  But as Johnson continues, one learns that Google wasn’t too precise in its use of the older images, and as a result, some completely innocuous structures and areas have been doomed to suffer from poor resolution.

Ogle Earth’s Stefan Geens explains how this happened.  “Google’s actions attempt to affect (symbolically, at least) an attitude of laissez faire when it comes to interfering with image tiles.  Governments may doctor imagery before it is released, and Google might use it wholesale (as it does in the Netherlands) but Google does not itself mix and match imagery at the sub-tile level. . . .  Google doesn’t micromanage decisions about what may or may not be justified censorship.”

Well, there you have it.  Don’t expect the situation to change in the near future (to favor either more clarity or more security) – Google tends not to flip-flop on this issue.

Google Maps Takes Dual Approach To D.C.
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