The german IT news site heise is reporting (in german) that a security expert called Klaus Dieter Matschke blames Google Earth to be a potential security risk for the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2006 in Germany. He claims that with the help of Google Earth’s accuracy on certain places in Germany it would be easy for terrorists to point russian Scud missiles onto various public targets.
These missiles are accessible on the international weapon black market for years. Their range is approx. 300 kilometers and, according to the US anti-missile defense authority, they can also be launched from cargo ships. Above all, Iran is suspected to have such missiles in cargo ships installed. (no further comment needed…)
All that are probably correct facts and the coordinates shown in Google Earth could be used as target information for missiles. But, if I have the power to buy Scud missiles and equip cargo ships with them, I won’t have any problem to get accurate target coordinates. This information is not unique in Google Earth. I guess the problem is that Google Earth is publicly available. As you notice even security experts managed to access Google Earth. They now see that there is something called geographic information out there which might result in security issues, meaning business to them.
Somebody has to tell them that GIS and accurate digital geographic information already existed long before Google Earth did!
So if we are confronted with security issues based on public geographic information, what should we do? Forbid and ban every kind of GIS and accurate map except for authorities (and security experts of course)? Oh wait, it reminds me of something: can it be that less censorship, better public information and knowledge within countries and governments is, let’s say, an improvement that came along with democracy and modern society?
Read the full (german) article at Technology Review. Remarkable detail in this article is the paragraph where Prof. Reinhard Zölitz-Möller, University of Greifswald – Dept. of Geography, claims that the German National Mapping agency only provides coordinate information for city centers, but not for buildings. I couldn’t believe that and checked it on their website: just in case they forgot to map buildings in their 1:5.000 vector model than you’ll for sure be able to pinpoint buildings in their orthophotos.