Lawmaker wants Google Maps to blur certain buildings

A California assemblyman fears that terrorists could use Google Maps to select their targets and wants to blur out detailed images.
Written by Elinor Mills, Contributor

Imagine if all the hospitals, schools, churches, and government buildings that appear on online maps were nothing but blurs.

That would not only reduce the usefulness of things like Google Maps and Google Earth, but it would be a huge undertaking for Google and would probably violate the First Amendment.

But that's exactly what California Assemblyman Joel Anderson, a Republican from El Cajon, is proposing in a measure dubbed "AB-255."

The measure would apply to Web site operators and online services that make "a virtual globe browser available to members of the public" and fails to define what that is. It also specifies that a violation would constitute a criminal offense with fines of up to $250,000 per day.

So, all the government agencies that use Google Earth and want the public to be able to find their buildings could conceivably be in violation as well.

As justification for the proposed censorship, Anderson is citing terrorism.

"We heard from terrorists involved in the Mumbai attacks last year that they used Google Maps to select their targets and get knowledge about their targets. Hamas has said they were using Google Maps to target children's schools," Anderson told Computerworld. "What my bill does is limit the level of detail. It doesn't stop people from getting directions. We don't need to help bad people map their next target. What is the purpose of showing air ducts and elevator shafts? It does no good."

Google spokeswoman Elaine Filadelfo told Computerworld that the company hopes to talk to Anderson about the proposed legislation.

Privacy complaints have led Google to blur images of official buildings in several instances. The U.S. military banned Google from taking street view images from inside military bases and in 2007 India asked that certain government and military buildings be blurred.

This article was originally posted on CNET News.

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