Legislator wants to smudge online maps

California legislator wants to require online maps blur soft targets, including schools.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor

You might think that online mapping services are a good thing. You know, never ask for directions, see what a neighborhood really looks like, and see what amusing street activity cameras may have captured.

But you'd be wrong. Online mapping is a blatant terrorist tool and any images of potential terrorist subjects must be blurred away. (It appears Mumbai terrorists used Google Maps.) Or such is the world according to California Rep. Joel Anderson (San Diego) and his moronic bill to require the blurring out not just of military installations (which I really have no problem with) but so-called "soft targets" like schools, hospitals, churches and civilian government buildings, according to the NY Times' Miguel Helft.

Never mind that this stupid obsession with the "risks" of the Internet would render valuable (to consumers and the companies) tools virtually useless and the fact that images would be easily available elsewhere, as noted by AP:

''Just taking a picture of a building is not a threat because these images have been available for decades,'' said Simon Davies, president of London-based Privacy International, which has been critical of Google for taking photographs without consent.

Bruce Schneier perfectly captures the absurdity.

If India bans Google Earth, a future terrorist won't be able to use it to plan; nor will anybody else. Open Wi-Fi networks are useful for many reasons, the large majority of them positive, and closing them down affects all those reasons. Terrorist attacks are very rare, and it is almost always a bad trade-off to deny society the benefits of a communications technology just because the bad guys might use it too.

Indeed it's exactly because of the (small) risk of terrorism that mapping, cell networks, Twitter, Facebook, etc., need to be available.

Communications infrastructure is especially valuable during a terrorist attack. Twitter was the best way for people to get real-time information about the attacks in Mumbai. If the Indian government shut Twitter down - or London blocked mobile phone coverage - during a terrorist attack, the lack of communications for everyone, not just the terrorists, would increase the level of terror and could even increase the body count. Information lessens fear and makes people safer.

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