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I am the eye in the sky, looking at you, I can read your mind
June 12, 2014 12:19 PM   Subscribe

Google just bought out skybox for $500MN. Skybox is a startup with grand amibitions: create cheap satellites which can be used to provide almost real time-time, sub one meter resolution imagery of earth. Even with six small satellites orbiting Earth, Skybox could provide practically real-time images of the same spot twice a day at a fraction of the current cost. The startup sent up its first satellite SkySat-1 last November. The satellite can provide HD images and videos (90 sec clips at 30 frames/second) The start-up hopes to combine its satellites with software which can analyze the visual data to collect information. It hopes that it can use its combination of hardware and software capabilities to gather real time information to estimate oil reserves in saudi Arabia, track fuel tankers in China's 3 main economic zones, rate of increase of electricity usage in India, number of cars in all wallmart parking lots.

In its marketing material, Skybox vaunts its data processing capability more than its satellites. Currently it supposed to be processing around 1 TB of data everyday.

While Google aims to use the service, initially, to refresh its maps faster, it would be easy to combine google's extensive data mining capabilities, image recognition capabilities and skybox's satellite coverage to create an almost real-time, accurate and extensive database of movement of people and goods across the globe.

In a direction different from most startups, Skybox has lot of connections and people from federal govt, NASA, spy agencies and recon agencies as its advisers and executive team. This is to help it avoid being stonewalled by federal agencies which traditionally treated such capabilities as being vital to national security.

The acquisition which is relatively low price in comparison to more famous acquisitions & valuations, might transform the information, data availability and intelligence capabilities of Google. It could also help resolve some of the problems with Google's automated car project.
(previously)
posted by TheLittlePrince (100 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
They're watching me pee, and I don't like it.
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:21 PM on June 12 [6 favorites]


We're sure this is Skybox, and not Skynet?
posted by dogheart at 12:23 PM on June 12 [34 favorites]


I'm envisioning a scene where somebody (probably only law enforcement at first, but later insurance companies, etc.) can type my name into a search box and a get a real-time satellite image of my current location.

I really can't estimate how far away this science fiction is.
posted by 256 at 12:24 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]


Oh, how nice, I can finally keep up with how all my off-the-grid friends are doing, whether they've gotten the sweet potatoes in yet, how the yearlings are doing, etc.
posted by resurrexit at 12:29 PM on June 12 [31 favorites]


man i was able to get all the way to "imagery" before i realized this was not about another cloud file storage company nor YT from SnowCrash becoming reality.

then i wanted to go close my blinds.
posted by sio42 at 12:30 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


I really can't estimate how far away this science fiction is.

I could write this software today if I had better security clearance.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:32 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]


Skybox has lot of connections and people from federal govt, NASA, spy agencies and recon agencies as its advisers and executive team.

I can only hope that this leads to foreign governments targeting them as spy satellites.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:33 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Google gets satellite images from GeoEye, which also sells images to the intelligence and military community. I imagine that Google spends quite a bit of money for these images.

I've always wondered why Google didn't just own and use their own satellites. Now they will. I'm guessing that this will turn out to be a bargain, and, as mentioned, improve the quality and timing of their images.
posted by eye of newt at 12:35 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


In the future, all streets and walkways will be roofed as a safeguard against surveillance and drones.

Or not.
posted by Zed at 12:37 PM on June 12


I kind of wish Google wasn't behaving like the intro narration to a dystopian sci-fi film.
posted by The Whelk at 12:43 PM on June 12 [80 favorites]


The demo reel and video samples are really something. If I saw that in a CSI episode I'd be rolling my eyes, but here we are.
posted by theodolite at 12:43 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


I could write this software today if I had better security clearance.

I don't imagine so, or else there would never be search and rescues, just rescues.

I mean, if you're marked as a person of interest, sure, 100% the tools are there to track you anywhere on the globe through satellites, surveillance cameras, cell phone signals, etc.

But how long until we're all being actively tracked that way as a matter of course, so that it's just a matter of changing the channel when you want to start following Joe Random who has never been a person of interest before today?

One year? Ten?
posted by 256 at 12:44 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Holy shit, this is both an amazing achievement (if it comes to fruition) and an amazing encroachment on the basic notion of privacy. Nosy authorities would no longer need a tracking device or access to your phone's GPS data to track everybody's car's movements.

If the ability to use Google Maps in almost-real-time becomes real, would it be better or worse if it were available to everybody as ordinary Google Maps is today?

I'm thinking if it has to exist, then at least make it available to the public. It would be worse to have that power concentrated in the hands of a few with the ability to pay.

Then again, it would mean that privacy exists only on cloudy days.
posted by Sleeper at 12:45 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


I mean, the terrifying other alternative is that this technology is already active, and the people who have it don't speak up when children are abducted or hikers go missing, because they don't want to tip their hand.
posted by 256 at 12:46 PM on June 12 [14 favorites]


Zero.
posted by gwint at 12:46 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


dogheart: "We're sure this is Skybox, and not Skynet?"

And for that matter, are we sure this isn't Skybox, the maker of the 1992 USA "Dream Team" trading card set?
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:46 PM on June 12 [6 favorites]


that was SOMEBODY ELSE having sex in my back yard just now. i better go out and check.
posted by bruce at 12:46 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Last autumn we were tent camping in a fairly remote spot with virtually no one else within shouting distance. It was serene and lovely, just us and the river. Blissfully secluded and private, we thought.

About a month later I described the site to friends and decided to show it to them using Google Maps. As I enlarged the image I realized I was looking at our campsite. I could spot our car, a distance away, and could resolve details of our tent, fire ring, etc.

This big ol' Peeping Big Brother business is so creepy I don't even have words, but there are two things which give me a modicum of comfort: (1) sadly, t was bound to happen, and (2) I live in a VERY cloudy area. (See complaints in previous sky event threads.)

My bigger fear is that the next step will involve deployment of surveillance drones, including tiny, bug-sized ones that will slip unnoticed into my home and monitor everything... or maybe crawl beneath my skin and stay there.

There is no escape. Okay, time for my meds.
posted by kinnakeet at 12:50 PM on June 12 [19 favorites]


So basically, the world we're making is like the Enterprise-D where the computer just knows everything that's going on in the ship at any moment but which doesn't keep anything secret from the Command Staff because they're in charge.

Well it would have made for an interesting show.

"Computer, Locate Wesley Crusher."

"Wesley Crusher is in his quarters... Masturbating... He asked me not to tell you that."
posted by Naberius at 12:50 PM on June 12 [15 favorites]


a person of interest, sure, 100% the tools are there to track you anywhere on the globe through satellites, surveillance cameras, cell phone signals, etc. 

Nice title drop.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:50 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Google gets satellite images from GeoEye

This is a pointless nitpick, but GeoEye merged with DigitalGlobe last year, so Google now gets its imagery from both. The merger was more or less forced by the government's decreasing funding/buying of commercial satellite imagery.

I used to work in the industry and have merger feelings
posted by troika at 12:51 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]


bruce: "that was SOMEBODY ELSE having sex in my back yard just now."
Some of my friends at university had a summer job censoring aerial photography for nude sunbathers before the images were made publically available.
posted by brokkr at 12:51 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]


those who say "now the authorities will have this technology!"

do you really think they don't already?
posted by rebent at 12:52 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


I'm just going to walk under an umbrella, wherever I go. Maybe I'll wrap it in tin foil, just to be safe.
posted by bondcliff at 12:53 PM on June 12


Good idea, that'll make it easier to pick out your umbrella and track it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:55 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


This big ol' Peeping Big Brother business is so creepy I don't even have words

I see a booming market in big hats with Guy-Fawkes-faces looking straight up.

You could make it like a beekeeper suit with a fine metal mesh dropping down from the brim for a portable faraday cage.
posted by Zed at 12:55 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Google buys a company that makes and flys actual satellites for 0.5 billion dollars and Facebook bought a chat client for 16 billion.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:57 PM on June 12 [113 favorites]


This looks like a lot smarter deal than Facebook paying $19 billion for a text messenging service.
posted by beagle at 12:57 PM on June 12


I'm envisioning a scene where somebody (probably only law enforcement at first, but later insurance companies, etc.) can type my name into a search box and a get a real-time satellite image of my current location.

If you carry a cell phone, they can already triangulate pretty close. I'm not sure what a grainy photo of the top of your head would accomplish, though.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 12:59 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]



Also, I've long thought Electric Eye was the better spy satellite song.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:00 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


Pogo_Fuzzybutt: "Google buys a company that makes and flys actual satellites for 0.5 billion dollars and Facebook bought a chat client for 16 billion."

Google acquisition is real-time global Where's Waldo, and Facebook's is akin to implanted beacons.
posted by wcfields at 1:02 PM on June 12


Forget tinfoil hats, you're going to need to cover your roof and yard too. Maybe take an umbrella with you everywhere. Walking, because they already track your car.
posted by emjaybee at 1:03 PM on June 12


On preview: dammit bondcliff.
posted by emjaybee at 1:03 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Seems odd to me, that a company that makes satellites is worth less than one that makes thermostats, or VR headsets...
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 1:06 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]


This reminds me of that scene in Men in Black where Tommy Lee Jones stalks his old lover via similar means, and I wondered: how would she feel if she knew how many times he'd seen her pick her nose?
posted by emjaybee at 1:08 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Also, I've long thought Electric Eye was the better spy satellite song.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt


I somehow hadn't heard that Judas Priest song yet. Rockin'!
posted by Sleeper at 1:22 PM on June 12


Skybox has 1/38th the value of Whatsapp.
posted by boo_radley at 1:25 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]


"You are being watched. The government Google has a secret system —a machine— that spies on you every hour of every day."
posted by anthom at 1:30 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


I, for one, welcome our Google overlords. I’d like to remind them that as a trusted web personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground server caves...
posted by entropicamericana at 1:37 PM on June 12 [8 favorites]


I would like to use this space to apologize to all the people everywhere I've dismissed with accusations that they were wearing tin foil hats.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:44 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


CheeseDigestsAll: I'm not sure what a grainy photo of the top of your head would accomplish, though.

You'll know the answer when we start seeing ads for Rogaine and hats.
posted by dr_dank at 1:47 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


We're sure this is Skybox, and not Skynet?

We're really close to the Google/Skynet tipping point. Enjoy your life while you can.
posted by tommasz at 1:51 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Tin foil is just silly (it amplifies if anything :-O) Now, if you could track the sat's when they were actually overhead, how strong a laser would it take to corrupt the imaging?
posted by sammyo at 1:51 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


Anyone cutting ESPN to watch blurry overhead view football?
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:52 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


This is kind of a derail, but did anyone else notice the apparently huge amount of sway at the top of the Burj Khalifa building in the sample video?

A quick googling turns up estimates of up to 5 feet max displacement, but it sure looks like more than that in the video. Could be an optical illusion, but it would be interesting to know. I guess it would be possible to work this out using trigonometry and the height and angle of the satellite along with the objects on the ground around the building.

You can figure that it was pretty windy by the degree that the jet that passes by is crabbed into the wind.
posted by TwoToneRow at 1:53 PM on June 12


I mean seriously, people, this stuff is getting more and more powerful and pervasive. Each change is relatively small - just a faster, more precise way to access what was previously sorta-kinda accessible with effort - but there are a lot of them. Right now, Google is just a creepy corporation with too much power and no morals, but what I find myself wondering is if, in ten or fifteen years, it won't be easier for them just to bring government in-house, as it were, by cutting some deals and facilitating some coups. We're already at a point where the state is seen as massively illegitimate by a lot of people all over the political spectrum, and that's probably just going to intensify, which means that it becomes less and less necessary to have some separation of corporation and state.

Google controls a huge chunk of something that is absolutely 100% vital to the operation of contemporary society. It's controlling more and more with each acquisition, as well as shaping the future of what will be needed. Another ten or fifteen years that are even sort of similar to now, and they will absolutely hold the whip hand. And eventually it's going to be easier just to dictate what happens instead of influencing and lobbying and so on.
posted by Frowner at 1:53 PM on June 12 [20 favorites]


I ascribe to the paranoid theory that Google's end goal is to become a military contractor that effectively ends the occupation/gurellia warfare problem before introducing the same tactics at home.

Because I'm sure there are 50 year plans that say " lots of hungry and displaced people, lots of potential riots and uprisings"
posted by The Whelk at 1:59 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


Skynet

Already had skynet. AT&T rebranded it.

At least the FCC had the sense to stop it back in April 1986.

I'm just going to walk under an umbrella

Why not:
1) wear a t-shirt that says "you are under surveillance You are being recorded"
2) Wear a few hidden body cams
3) Make and wear an IR LED Hat
4) If anyone stops you for the glow about your head, claim you are Jesus/The Budda/an alien/just plain old enlightened and state that the video effect is because of your positive energy.


Think of the you tube fun you could have with various security people.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:59 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Universal surveillance is here, and it's going to become more efficient, by orders-of-magnitude. There is simply no way to stop this development. So, what to do?

Citizens need to be sure that surveillance systems are kept as completely transparent as possible. This will create a natural tension between those who want to secret and/or hoard surveillance-derived information for their advantage. Of course, many commercial and government organizations will use surveillance technologies to create legitimate efficiencies, but citizens are going to have to INSIST that they are made aware of the negative externalities that emanate from universal surveillance. In other words, meta-surveillance.

If we fail to accomplish as-near-to-perfect meta surveillance as possible - through legislation, etc. - we will lose power at an exponential rate relative to those who are holding the surveillance cards. As instanced in the recent NSA debacle, it's easy to see how quickly non-transparent surveillance can get out of control.

Start with your legislator, and (no pun intended) keep your eye on these technologies. We are closer than ever to a control society that loses power relative to its past ability to affect change in government that benefits the whole.
posted by Vibrissae at 2:03 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]


Right now, Google is just a creepy corporation with too much power and no morals,

VS the known morality and non-creepyness of other large corporations like Time-Warner or Comcast?
posted by rough ashlar at 2:03 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


In other news, Google purchased a controlling interest in LaserMax, a start-up specializing in manufacturing one-gigawatt lasers suitable for putting in orbit.

In real estate news, Google has purchased a dormant volcano in the South Pacific. It is believed this will be used to house it's server farms for the Asia market.
posted by happyroach at 2:05 PM on June 12 [19 favorites]


The videos are impressive, but it's obvious that you can't monitor all of earth at once with sub-meter accuracy. Is there only one camera on these satellites or can they look at several places at once?
posted by ymgve at 2:15 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


This is kind of a derail, but did anyone else notice the apparently huge amount of sway at the top of the Burj Khalifa building in the sample video?

A quick googling turns up estimates of up to 5 feet max displacement, but it sure looks like more than that in the video. Could be an optical illusion, but it would be interesting to know. I guess it would be possible to work this out using trigonometry and the height and angle of the satellite along with the objects on the ground around the building.

You can figure that it was pretty windy by the degree that the jet that passes by is crabbed into the wind.


It's parallax because the satellite is flying pretty fast. It is set to focus on a specific point on the ground, but as it moves along its path, the top of the spire (and the airplane) moves quicker relative to the ground, and therefore appear to be moving.
posted by ymgve at 2:20 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


I don't mean to sidestep the extremely important privacy issues involved with something like this, but my instinct as an ecologist was to be super excited about having access to data at such a fine spatiotemporal resolution at a global extent. We could do so many amazing things with sub-1m resolution orthophotos taken twice-daily that it isn't even funny. From tracking wildlife dens, migrations, species distribution changes, landscape change detection, even regulation enforcement... these data are a goldmine for people working in ecology or environmental monitoring. Better information at this scale will also provide critical inputs to regional- and global-scale environmental modeling; our predictions will be SO much better if we can base them on sub-1m resolution seasonal data instead of broad-scale annual biome lookup tables. Ecologists are already doing this at fine scales, sometimes even using DIY UAVs, but having a global dataset like this would have enormous implications for ecological research.

There could be serious ecological downsides if this info is made available in real-time though - the first thing that comes to mind are hunters that track wolves by their radio collars so they can kill them the second they step foot outside of protected areas (happens at Yellowstone especially).
posted by dialetheia at 2:29 PM on June 12 [25 favorites]


:) and everyone was getting pissy about Google glass, eh?
posted by TheLittlePrince at 2:39 PM on June 12


> dialethia, I'm glad I'm not the only ecologist on here who read this news and got REALLY excited. For me, the ability to do real-time kelp demography or marsh monitoring is making me salivate a little bit.
posted by redbeard at 2:41 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


Are we sure this is such a good idea?

On the other hand, it will make the drones more useful.
posted by sneebler at 2:44 PM on June 12


Wait so lets take stock, google owns:

1. a military robotics company
2. satellites, and a satellite mapping firm+ their own mapping team and logic
3. ground level scanning tech, both the stuff they use to map routes for their self driving cars and on the onboard systems and software on those cars
4. an enormous network backbone
5. several supercomputers worth of power, including offshore wave/tidal powered and cooled mobile server farms
6. whatever the hell google X is working on that we don't know about.
7. the ability to remotely access and update the largest installed base of smartphones on the planet(look into the "google experience" apps getting silent updates like chrome, independent of the OS updates)

I know i'm missing a bunch of stuff, but how the hell aren't they essentially some cartoon villains corporation like lexcorp at this point? It seems like they're one succeeding AI or autonomous combat robotics project away from a literal scifi movie where combat droids are blasting everything to pieces.
posted by emptythought at 2:48 PM on June 12 [9 favorites]


Good thing their internal motto is "Don't be evil." Otherwise I might be kind of uncomfortable about this development!
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:50 PM on June 12 [12 favorites]


Google controls a huge chunk of something that is absolutely 100% vital to the operation of contemporary society. It's controlling more and more with each acquisition, as well as shaping the future of what will be needed. Another ten or fifteen years that are even sort of similar to now, and they will absolutely hold the whip hand. And eventually it's going to be easier just to dictate what happens instead of influencing and lobbying and so on.

I think this is pretty sensible, unfortunately.

It brings to mind the weird and counter-intuitive nature of risk and how bad people really are at risk assessment. It also makes me think of how novel these technological capabilities are, and how utterly unprepared we are in terms of norms and laws to deal with the implications of technology.

We can do such amazing things now, even though we imagine scenarios easily of even greater technological advancement (e.g., Star Trek). But when you listen to the things people say about contemporary ethical issues, it's painfully clear that in comparison we've made paltry moral or ethical progress. We haven't come very close to solving the basic problem of power. Granted, we live in a nominal democracy (cf. Cantor being obliged to resign his position of great power), but even in a democracy many people support the idea that some people, and some groups, have a right to dominate others categorically and with whatever means they choose.

It took hundreds of years, a complete transformation of wealth processes and many, many bloody wars for Europe to transition from royal aristocracy to democracy. How long will it take, what will it take, for us to move beyond democracy to a normative system in which some kind of durable check on power itself can become conventional wisdom?
posted by clockzero at 2:58 PM on June 12 [14 favorites]


frowner:
Google controls a huge chunk of something that is absolutely 100% vital to the operation of contemporary society. It's controlling more and more with each acquisition, as well as shaping the future of what will be needed. Another ten or fifteen years that are even sort of similar to now, and they will absolutely hold the whip hand. And eventually it's going to be easier just to dictate what happens instead of influencing and lobbying and so on.
In 2013, Google's posted revenue was around $46 Billion, which puts it between the GDPs of Kenya and Slovenia. I know these aren't comparable, but they give some idea of scale. Google has a population of ~50k, Kenya 43.2m, and Slovenia a little over 2m.

One of my Anthro profs in school was fond of telling us that corporations are "just" a new version of tribal organization, and looking at them that way would help us understand what kind of world we live in, especially as powerful corporations seek to balance their future interests against those of nations. Google is in the enviable position of not only having lots of revenue and capital, but more information and computing power than most of the rest of the world. Frankly, whether or not they really are evil, their motives should be more transparent than most national governments. But this kind of assessment doesn't make me very comfortable, especially with emptythought's point #1 above.
posted by sneebler at 3:11 PM on June 12 [6 favorites]


More and more it looks like Google is simply trying to buy the future rather than create it.
posted by Pyry at 3:11 PM on June 12


I feel safe in my privacy, since Google Maps (as well as all GPS systems) believe I live in a vacant lot a quarter mile south of my true address, and has made no attempt to correct that in the 8 years I've lived here. Garbage in, garbage out.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:12 PM on June 12


from the youtube video

introducing the world's first HD video from space

I seriously doubt it
posted by nathancaswell at 3:13 PM on June 12


but even in a democracy many people support the idea that some people, and some groups, have a right to dominate others categorically and with whatever means they choose.

Then its a good thing that there are so few Democracies and so many Republics. The CIA factbook has more about Who's a Republic and Who's a Democracy. A simple wc -l on the list shows 119 matches for republic, with only 219 listed. Only 57 matches for democracy.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:15 PM on June 12


It took hundreds of years, a complete transformation of wealth processes and many, many bloody wars for Europe to transition from royal aristocracy to democracy.

And we've been moving in full reverse for more years than Google has existed.

One of my Anthro profs in school was fond of telling us that corporations are "just" a new version of tribal organization, and looking at them that way would help us understand what kind of world we live in, especially as powerful corporations seek to balance their future interests against those of nations.

He's a little behind if he thinks the corporations haven't caught up and passed the governments in large portions of the world (including a majority of the states in the U.S.). They still teach that the Magna Carta, which transferred power from a single king to local aristocracy, was a big step toward freedom for 'the people', don't they?
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:17 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


True enough - that was 30 years ago. I like to think of him as prescient.
posted by sneebler at 3:20 PM on June 12


It's interesting (for "old Chinese curse" values of interesting) to watch non-state organizations gain capabilities that match or in some senses outstrip those of even prosperous countries. Google obviously has more intelligence gathering ability than Slovenia for example and probably by quite a margin.

What is Google's population after all? 50k employees? Tens of thousands of purchasers of ads? The billions of fractions of a day individuals spend looking at those ads? It's easy to go overboard on descriptions of cyber-feudalism but I think there's a kernel of truth there.
posted by Skorgu at 3:25 PM on June 12


So before I'm an old lady, that is, if I live that long, Google could conceivably be running the planet in some shape or form, eh? I'm just shocked at how quickly it's all happened. Not even 20 years, and from a company that was proffered to us as a web page indexing and search service, and that's it. Haben unsere Daten da, indeed.

Can you imagine? What if they start armies and it's the Comcasters vs. the Googlebots, or some stupid shit? And the people get hosed again, like we've always been. 1946-1974 was an anomaly of history, it really was.
posted by droplet at 3:25 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


In the future, banner clicks will be authenticated in real time using satellite surveillance.
posted by ceribus peribus at 3:49 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


I need to buy a hat.
posted by srboisvert at 4:03 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


I don't mean to sidestep the extremely important privacy issues involved with something like this, but my instinct as an ecologist was to be super excited about having access to data at such a fine spatiotemporal resolution at a global extent.

Yeah, as another ecologist I find this to be an incredible opportunity - I thought MODIS Aqua/MODIS Terra's ability to give us wildfire hotspots four times a day at a 1km resolution was pretty good. Imagine being able to film wildfire progress in real time!

As for the privacy issues - well, does taking photographs from space count as taking a photograph from a public place for those purposes?
posted by Jimbob at 4:08 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]


That depends; are we normal people, or are we self-righteous jerks who scoff at the notion of consent and whose main hobby is holding our fingers one inch from people's faces and, when they complain, gleefully protesting, "But I'm not touching you!"?
posted by No-sword at 4:52 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]


I wonder what kind of restrictions Google/Skybox have to agree to wrt national security (in the US, of course, but for all the countries)?
posted by notyou at 5:30 PM on June 12


I wonder what Google's competition thinks about these capabilities google is creating.

And I wonder when Google becomes powerful enough for some nation to try and nationalize its capabilities in the name of national security. Afterall, if google has a significant number of data centers in your country, it basically has a large amount of code which the govt might decide to "liberate" from Google's control.

I know Indian politicians would think about nationalizing some algorithms seriously and cite "national security"reasons to force Google to agree. China might not be far behind.

Will US govt really stop itself if it deems that Google's capabilities are strong enough to make a significant difference in "national security" and give it a huge competitive edge in a tense and fragile scenario?
posted by TheLittlePrince at 5:38 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Maybe I live to close to Google HQ but I see this as a big step towards a beautiful One World view without borders or shadows protecting tyranny, ignorance and injustice.
I'll gladly tip my tinfoil hat to anything that feeds a global scale Socratic 'know thy self.' Privacy is valueless in a truly free society.
posted by astrobiophysican at 5:52 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


I'm thinking my new business is launching killer satellites to disrupt these flying peepholes.
posted by sfts2 at 6:07 PM on June 12


I'm choosing to ignore the doomsday paranoia bullshit and just appreciate the technical wizardry on display here. I mean, we can film a supernova from light years away too!.. did anybody think we wouldn't ever figure out how to capture HD video from space?
posted by ReeMonster at 6:09 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


Semi-Related: "10 Weird Patents That Google Owns"

#3: Pay-per-gaze Advertising Tracking System
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:26 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


They're watching me pee, and I don't like it.

Shake it, shake it like a Polaroid picture!
posted by octobersurprise at 6:55 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


Privacy is valueless in a truly free society.

So is sarcasm.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:08 PM on June 12


Nah, man, don't say that. All my stock is in sarcasm.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:16 PM on June 12 [7 favorites]


There is truth and there is what we would like it to be...

Seems the truth is that such 24 hr surveillance is inevitable on earth ... though we would like it not to be. ("You see that Mr. Anderson?... That is the sight of inevitability")

and then there is the saying ... if you can't beat them, join them.

:) as it was said up thread: I, for one, welcome .....

I think there are quite a few advantages to such real time around the globe imagery ... lets pray for those advantages.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 8:58 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


All my stock is in sarcasm.

Better sell now, before it's devalued.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:47 PM on June 12


The main question in my mind right now is whether I should get a job at Google now so I get citizen rights in its clave. qv The Diamond Age.
posted by scrump at 9:53 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


I'm going to make me a million dollars selling umbrellas that read 'FUCK YOU, GOOGLE' across the topside.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:15 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


Better sell now, before it's devalued.

I shorted irony back in 2001 and look where that got me...
posted by elwoodwiles at 10:16 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


"it would be easy to combine google's extensive data mining capabilities, image recognition capabilities and skybox's satellite coverage to create an almost real-time, accurate and extensive database of movement of people and goods across the globe. "

Possible, yeah, but I don't think I would call that easy. Not even for Google. That is a very big and difficult project.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:47 PM on June 12


I shorted irony back in 2001 and look where that got me...

Into the lyrics of an Alanis Morissette song?
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:51 PM on June 12


Possible, yeah, but I don't think I would call that easy. Not even for Google. That is a very big and difficult project.

They have the power to run the software if they made it, and they have all the pieces.

This falls under the whole category of "owning something which could be misused means it will be eventually".

it's not like they have a particularly good track record with not using whatever is available to them for tracking and advertising.
posted by emptythought at 11:50 PM on June 12


15 satellites that spend more than half their time over ocean nobody cares about hardly equates to the universal surveillance of everybody all the time people are going on about in this thread. And although it would be useful for science I'm not really getting why businesses are going to be jumping up and down about getting a few seconds of video twice a day from a location.
posted by lastobelus at 3:09 AM on June 13


Yes but assuming they have a 10Mpixel camera on board: that is at 1mt / pixel a 3.3km square block for each satellite.

The surface of the earth excluding the ocean is 148.940.000 square km.

That is my chance of being filmed on action (actually not filmed at all as the resolution of my body from the sky would be less than 1 pixel) is like 0.0000018 % ?

Looks to me this acquisition is so they can get cheaper images for their google maps. I just would like the pricing for getting a single snapshot of a car parking lot (move satellite, point camera, operator costs etc)....

The resource monitoring (fisheries, wildlife etc) is also a good target for their product (gov. agencies have the money to pay for it).
posted by elcapitano at 3:23 AM on June 13


At this point, we can all agree William Gibson has been right so far. So I guess you know what we have to worry about next, hmm? That's right. Pants.
posted by valkane at 3:42 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]


These satellites would be great for live traffic updates, except we'll all be in Google cars.
posted by mecran01 at 6:06 AM on June 13


" [...] rate of increase of electricity usage in India, number of cars in all wallmart parking lots [...]"

Finally, a way to answer all of those stupid Google interview questions.
posted by user92371 at 7:02 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]


There are some rumors that Google is considering investing in a joint venture with Virgin Galactic's satellite launching system. The Virgin launcher says 500lbs to LEO for $10 million. Skybox's skysat 1 was ~220 lbs and is estimated to have cost between $2 and $5 million. They claim to sidestep many of the range-clearance delays that i.e. SpaceX is fighting with now.

I'm sure someone could give a better estimate on how many satellites you'd need to get relatively constant coverage but at $15 million a pop you could have an Iridium-scale constellation (~100 satellites) for about a billion and a half. Probably far less if you started mass-producing the satellites and got a bulk discount on launching. If you spent what WhatsApp cost Facebook (~$19 billion) you'd get a little over 1200.

I generated a random Ballard rosette in SaVi based on 16 planes of 64 satellites for a very Google-y 1024 birds. At a .1 degree coverage angle (which I think is roughly right for a ~1km square at 500km altitude) you'd get 0.2% coverage of the globe at any given time.
posted by Skorgu at 12:24 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]


The commercial value of some of the derivable data from the surveillance is huge. I can see why the investments were made. In pursuit of huge numbers of dollars, privacy takes a back seat, unfortunately. I don't see any legislative way to stem this technology, so laws that mandate social control represent the only way to control our future.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:34 PM on June 13


Google never ceases to amaze and terrify me, usually in the course of one day.

So, we're all clear now that, when some successful upstart company says their motto is "Don't be evil," it will gradually morph into "Don't be so obvious about being evil, and don't be so grumpy about our nice busses, and while we're talking, please sign up for Google + while you still have the option to say no. It's better to make a choice while you still have the option.... that's all I can say about it. Have you been to the cafeteria yet? We never leave work!" to, soon, "Don't be on the wrong side of the algorithm, because it's incomprehensible and it's recently taken over the board of directors, just get the hell out of the way, for the love of humanity, and let it feed!" to -10 years from now, "Just a quick reminder- Resistance is futile. That's what our engineering team is telling us, and customers tell us, because they read the TOS and know that brain interface implants are now mandatory for all Adsense customers and YouTube commenters. We gave you all an extension, but the grace period is over, so legally we're allowed to start involuntary drilling today. Hey guys ... If you sign up for Google+ we'll give you a free vintage Google Glass and personal spy satellite! Remember how crazy it was back then, having so many confusing choices, which frankly didn't synergize with our executive plan, but that's all in the past, as the sacrifices in lives and all the ... robots. Oh, the robots... What fools we were! Well, horrifying and tragic, yes, but live and learn, and let's never mention that again. Let's be clear: Google is not a company for or run by robots! Never again... Just a reminder that Google+ is now free of robots, and everyone's saying it's still really cool, and we're ready to prove it, if you just give us a chance and look at all the new features..."
posted by krinklyfig at 1:03 PM on June 14


I mean I'm just speculating, but it seems obvious that's how things are gonna play out. With the robots.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:22 PM on June 14


Project Loon: Google's Balloon Internet Experiment, One Year Later - "A Loon balloon ascends to the stratosphere and heads toward Google's partner school, Linoca Gayoso Castelo Branco, where students wait for the arrival of the Internet."
posted by kliuless at 7:11 PM on June 18


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