Google Earth: Bahrain, Gaia, Liverpool

News Roundup: Bahrain, Gaia, Liverpool

Three stories have been in the news or blogosphere over the Thanksgiving weekend. Here’s a summary of each:

  • Bahrain – The Financial Times reports that Google Earth has been the catalyst for a push for equality in the country of Bahrain. Earlier this year, the government tried to censor the use of Google Earth (it was quickly put back after the ensuing outcry) when it was discovered people were looking at the lavish palaces and yachts owned by the elite of the country. More importantly, the elite own a very large disproportionate part of the real estate of the small country while most of the population live in a cramped life style. The satellite and aerial photos show the facts. Now there appears to be a push for change.
  • Gaia – A programmer spent some time during the past few months hacking into the Google Earth databases so he could attempt to write an open source Google Earth application. First, this violates the terms of service of Google Earth (which specifically states you may not do this). Second, he didn’t understand that the data is protected with encryption for a reason. Google has licenses with the data providers which require they restrict its use only through their application. If anyone could access the data, Google would not be able to provide it for free (also, the aerial and satellite photography companies would not be able to earn a business). It cost Google over $50 Million to get these data licenses. When Google Earth’s Chief Technologist Michael Jones contacted the programmer this week, and gently explained the circumstances, he quickly removed the application from his servers. The programmer says: “Please note, that I did it on my own will, not being treated or something. Please do not consider me a victim. Michael explained the possible outcome of my work pretty good.”.
  • Liverpool – Some folks in Liverpool are disappointed their city isn’t as up to date as London in Google Earth. This has been picked up by the media at The Guardian and the BBC. Google points out: “‘We can only update things as soon as we have the data.” In other words, if Liverpool wants better data – all they need to do is hire an aerial photographer and provide the resulting data to Google. That’s what other cities, and even entire states, have done around the world. Several states in the US are now in high res because the states gave data to Google.

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