If you had to pit the former KGB against Google in a "spy-off", who would win? My bet is on Google. The former Soviet Union's uber-powerful spy agency didn't have anything like Google's resources, Google's reach, and they certainly didn't have Google's enormous storehouse of data. The KGB also didn't have Google's fun little Street View camera cars.
That brings us back to our spy-off, because as it turns out, Google seems to have "outed" a secret base of the British SAS, sending the UK government into something of a kerfuffle (tumult).
The British Special Air Service is the British special forces unit tasked primarily with intelligence gathering and counter-intelligence. According to an article in the British Daily Mail online, the SAS has managed to keep its base off maps for donkey's years (quite a long time).
Although most people in the region know the base is there, no real detail has ever appeared before in published material. Now, it appears the boffins (techies) at Google have bodged (screwed) it all up. Google's fiddly-bits-filled camera cars managed to take a dekko (reconnoiter) at it, and members of the British military and parliament are quite gobsmacked (surprised) that Google would filch (swipe) pictures of their most secret locations.
The maps show it
I was able to verify that something labeled "XXXXXXXXX XXXX" (redacted) was searchable on both Google Earth and Google Maps. Since I work with counterterrorism professionals regularly, that's information I'm not going to tell you how to find. What the pictures would have shown -- had I not blurred them out so you can't read them -- would have been what's marked as the base entrance.
You could even see a full overhead view (also blurred, for your protection):
So the Mail article seems true, in that Google has been a nosey parker (buttinski) at what certainly looks like a British base.
Going Profumo (political scandal)
According to Mail's article, Member of Parliament Paul Keetch was having a strop on (being in a bad mood) and would prefer Google's camera cars be sent to the knacker's yard (scrap heap). He's quoted as saying,
There needs to be a certain degree of restraint shown by people like Google. I wouldn't want a terrorist to be inspired by these pictures and it would be appalling if any help at all was given to our enemies.
What's particularly amusing about all this is what you can find about MP Keetch in Google's stonking (huge) database. A quick search shows an article in the Telegraph, accusing Keetch of shagging (schtupping) the wife of a former Special Forces officer. So, when Keetch says he wants to protect the honor of the Special Forces, you know he's thinking, "How's your father?" (actual British slang for shagging).
And, as sure as Bob's your uncle (easy peasy), the Mail article reports Google's chuffed to bits (pleased with itself) about its Street View cars. I asked Google's press relations team if they wanted to comment on this situation, and this is what they told me (to be attributed to "a Google spokesperson"):
Google Street View is made up of images taken from public roads and so it's to be expected that buildings that anyone can see walking down the street may appear. Our drivers are trained not to take photographs where this is prohibited by law, but if mistakes are made we will act quickly to remove the images.
We're unaware of any official concerns being raised about security, but are of course happy to discuss any issues if they arise. We also provide an easily accessible "report a problem" tool on Street View that allows members of the public to ask for their house or their car to be removed from the service if they wish.
In other words, everything is tickety-boo (fine), Google's twee (cute) cars are doing what they're supposed to do, and everything's the dog's bollocks (the bees knees). And if you don't like it, Google will disappear you (or at least the images of your property) upon request.
Meanwhile, the Mail reports an unnamed Ministry of Defence spokesperson saying, "We never confirm where any of our special forces are based." This, of course, means that they're neither confirming nor denying the information on Google's maps is, in fact, the previously unpublicized base.
According to the article, MoD did throw a wobbly (tantrum) and Google's mapping cars did throw a spanner in the works (screwed things up). And even though British military chiefs would prefer the cars naff off (go away), it turns out they're quite au fait (familiar with) Google's offerings.
As it turns out, the Ministry of Defence Web site is powered by a Google Search Appliance. Ironic, no?
My somewhat sincere apologies to all of Her Majesty's citizens for bollucksing up your slang. And while you're here, what's the difference between good ol' American "horsepower" and the British term "break horsepower," as used on Top Gear? What can I say? I love that show. TalkBack below.
What do you guys think about how cool it is that you can check out any street you want to see vs. the idea that people can check out where you live?