Google Earth locates landmarks, skeptics

By Patricia J. Sheehan
March 9, 2006

Google, one of the most popular search engines used all around the world, has been building up much controversy over its satellite mapping system, Google Earth. Some say that it is a threat to our national security. The question is would it violate our rights if the program was disassembled?

Google Earth is a free program that anyone with a computer can obtain and lets the user view detailed satellite pictures of virtually any place in the world. Anyone can view the Eiffel Tower, the White House or even a best friend’s house on their computer screen within seconds. In some instances, one can see their own cars parked in their driveways.

This ability terrifies many when they think about the nation’s security and brings up a lot of controversy with our constitutional rights. Some argue that we have a right to see these images but others believe that letting these images remain public would only invite terrorists into our homes.

Pat Jordan, a junior political science major, said that the pictures are not clear enough to pose any threat.

“The pictures are too grainy for anyone to really do anything harmful with that kind of information,” Jordan said.

John McIntyre, the director of Information Technology and Resources, says that there are no blocks set up at Cabrini for this program because so many, not just at Cabrini but the whole world, use Google in their everyday lives.

“Almost everyone nowadays uses Google for quick referencing; it is a far more valuable resource than just for entertainment; however, one has to be selective and somewhat wary with all the referenced sources,” he said.

There are however, two other versions of the program. Google Earth Plus, which costs $20, is advertised as, “A must have for mapping enthusiasts.” The upgraded features for this program include: a higher resolution for viewing and printing, a data importer to read address points from .csv files and adds drawing and sketch tools for richer annotations.

If someone really wants to get serious about circling the globe, they can purchase Google Earth Pro for an easy $400.

With Google Earth Pro, the images can be shown in 3D and can also be layered to show schools, parks, business and hospitals.

Some Cabrini students think that making this information so accessible is a huge threat to our personal welfare and that there should be more screening involved in registering for the program.

“The statement that it is a threat has been circulated about the ITR team, but I feel that any site deemed a national threat would have been shut down some time ago,” McIntyre said.

History professor, Dr. Jolyon Girard, says that this kind of information is obtainable at City Hall and other public services. Google Earth is just a modern way of getting the information.

“It seems to me the people who would be interested in doing serious harm would have access to the information they needed whether this service was available to them or not,” said Girard.

One must consider that if Google Earth were to be regulated by the government, what would stop officials from continuing to regulate other forms of information gathering and media?

“They can get information from Time magazine and do something but that doesn’t mean we should shut down Time magazine. I think that really gets dicey. You can’t block everything,” Girard said.

Google Earth is just one of the many programs appearing that make information that has long been available to researchers readily available to the public. The public is sometimes startled about how much is known about them.

These kinds of websites are growing and personal information is becoming more and more available to the public. Trying to censor these sites would surely spark numerous debates.

Posted to the web by Shane Evans

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Patricia J. Sheehan

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