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Sydney Gets Fuzzy Under Google Maps

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Views of Australia’s well-known metropolis on Google Maps have diminished in their clarity, resulting in conspiracy theories and denials from the search company.


Sydney Gets Fuzzy Under Google Maps
Sydney Gets Fuzzy Under Google Maps

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Australia 2007 Summit scheduled for September 2-9 in Sydney will bring in powerful political visitors like US President George W. Bush, protestors and their causes, and potentially the spectre of terrorism. We don’t envy the work Australian security professionals have to do in Sydney in preparation.

It’s been suggested by the Sydney Morning Herald that such preparations have extended to cyberspace, specifically that niche served by Google Maps and its satellite imagery. Views of Sydney from above have taken a turn for the blurrier, with the Herald hinting at national security requests resulting in Google taking down some of their best imagery:

Users of Google Maps Australia could previously zoom in for satellite views as close as 25 metres above the ground in much of Sydney, but now maps of the CBD are blurry even when zoomed out to 300 metres. Where individual people, tree branches and garbage bin lids were once visible, they can now only be seen as vague outlines of objects.

The high-resolution satellite images, which were introduced this year, appear to have been replaced by lower quality versions for the Sydney CBD only, and not for suburbs like Bondi Beach and Point Piper.

The article indicated how updates to imagery of Washington DC did not include much of the downtown area, where lower resolution images remain the norm.

Google has blamed the Sydney image downgrade "as a result of a commercial issue with a supplier." That’s a strange claim, as Google just happens to own Keyhole, a satellite image company that has mapped the world.

Sydney Gets Fuzzy Under Google Maps
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  • rosickysrightboot

    “That’s a strange claim, as Google just happens to own Keyhole, a satellite image company that has mapped the world.”

    Keyhole are/were not a satellite image company, they are a geospatial data visualization, that became Google Earth. Most of Google’s data comes from companies such as DigitalGlobe.

    • David A. Utter

      Good point, I’ve seen both descriptions applied to Keyhole, but the visualization one is how In-Q-Tel used to refer to it. So a better question must be, "what happened to the older, higher-res images of Sydney."

      • rosickysrightboot

        Well, I would expect that the “commercial” issue no doubt comes down to Google wanting to make is data available to the world effectively for no nothing.

        Aerial Imagery providers have real concerns that no matter what Google pay them, the message to the market is that this data has no value, therefore no-one will pay for it. Aerial content is not cheap for these companies to produce, so they are concerned that companies such as Google, Yahoo, Microsoft etc will be the only companies who will pay for this stuff, and boom, there goes their market.

        DigitalGlobe are finding that the exclusivity agreement they had with Google worked well in some ways (i.e. they were able to go and buy lots of content and comapnies such as GlobeXplorer), but once that deal runs out next year, who else is going to pay a realistic price for this stuff?

        My forecast?… Google to buy DigitalGlobe early next year, to take the other players out of the market.

  • http://www.simplyjewelry.com.au Colin Elliott

    It is indeed strange, I have noticed this happening in different places at various sensitive times too!
    Though, if it were to influence possible terrorist organisations attack efforts, I feel it is like closing the door after the horse has bolted! It seems they plan attacks well into the future!!!

    • David A. Utter

      The biggest problem is that Google isn’t the only door to close. Imagery can be had from other sources, it’s just that Google’s services are very good, free, and convenient to use.

      If this were a political site, I would wonder if the organizers are more concerned about terrorists or protestors.

  • Guest

    Google earth is so cool I can see my Sydney Accountants office. This assisted many of our clients to find our accounting firm and made our accountants well known in Sydney

  • http://travel-guide2india.blogspot.com Famous places in India

    My place in India , a small town has always been fuzzy on google map…. He he he

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