Selective Blindness in Google Earth and Google Maps
January 20, 2016 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Sorry we have no imagery here: Self censorship in Google geographical images Google's original mission statement from 1998 stated was to: “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”

The creation - and ongoing curation - of Google Earth (est 2011) and Google Maps (est 2005) are a big part of that original mission statement. Unfortuantely, not all geographical information can be completely free/unrestricted, and so occasionally there are censored areas. Google Earth is often discussed on Mefi - see some of the highlights below: Google Maps is also often discussed - previously-er
posted by Faintdreams (17 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
When a government asks someone to remove something I think that's actual censorship and not self-censorship.
posted by GuyZero at 8:31 AM on January 20, 2016 [14 favorites]


What's sparse about the satellite imagery of Area 51/Groom Lake/Homey Airport? I'll admit I'm not looking at it through a tinfoil lens, but I only see one area of storage tarmac (?) that could be construed as suspiciously blurred.

I will note that if you try to drag the street view guy onto the map, he turns into a flying saucer, so that's fun.
posted by cmoj at 8:37 AM on January 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


I don't think the Atlas Obscura author has any idea of how Google works. Some of those examples appear to be simply missing data. In other cases, they have to obey the laws of the country they are photographing.

The Col.Sander's issue isn't specific to him. You'll see blurred out faces in billboards, etc., and it's not like there's a human choosing to redact him, there's so much data to process, it's all done by facial recognition software, which makes amusing choices at times, like blurring the face on a statue of Shakespeare.

One of the funniest stories I heard when I worked there was that a conspiracy theory had popped up online about why there was no street map data for a certain part of Silicon Valley. It turned out that the disc drive used during the mapping had crapped out and they simply had too much other work to do to remap it immediately.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:39 AM on January 20, 2016 [10 favorites]


FUN FACT: Colonel Sanders face is blurred in ALL photos. Try taking one, it'll come out blurred. The current theory is that there's some sort of psychic-shielding that prevents us from getting an accurate photo of what his face REALLY looks like. (Hint: it would drive you insane to actually see it).
posted by blue_beetle at 8:45 AM on January 20, 2016 [33 favorites]


On the Faroes, even the Atlas Obscura author isn't claiming the lack of imagery is censorship. It's a pretty sparsely populated part of the world, and also with terrible weather so cloud-free imagery is difficult to get. When I visited there a few years back I was astonished at how bad Google Maps' road network was. They had half the city of Tórshavn underwater. It's fixed now.

I'm particularly perplexed at his calling out the WW2 base on Vagar. It's right there, and while it's not high quality imagery it's certainly fine. It's the civilian airport now. If you ever visit, it has quite an exciting approach as you drop under clouds and fly up one of the fjords.

(Bonus Farøyar content: Dany Bruch windsurfs the icey wilds.)
posted by Nelson at 8:56 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


KFC = Kentucky Fried Cthulhu

WAKE UP SHEEPLE
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:57 AM on January 20, 2016 [9 favorites]


What's sparse about the satellite imagery of Area 51/Groom Lake/Homey Airport?

Yeah...The Groom Lake images look pretty un-doctored to me, save for a couple of small black spots. It always looks sparse. It's a dry lake bed. If it's the lack of people or secret projects out in the open, well...the story I once got (from someone who had reason to know about such things) is that they know when imaging satellites are passing-by and schedule outdoor activity accordingly. Plus, y'know, it's a desert. It's hot. No one in their right mind is going to be wrenching on a UFO sitting out on the tarmac.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:58 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Some of the satellite pics for Ireland are really crappy - it's strange when North Korea has better imagery than part of your home county.
posted by kersplunk at 9:00 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


I like the hide in plain sight approach:

Meanwhile, somewhat ingeniously, the government of Malaysia went the opposite route and realized that it would reveal its sensitive locations if they were visibly censored, so it chose to leave them unblurred.
posted by fairmettle at 9:03 AM on January 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


Soooooo... who wants to Kickstart launching a Metafilter imaging satellite with me?

George Cloony's done it, albiet with far loftier goals than "I wanna see unredacted views of Area 51 from the sky".

Stretch goal: Pony.
posted by fragmede at 9:15 AM on January 20, 2016 [7 favorites]




FUN FACT: Colonel Sanders face is blurred in ALL photos.

That must be why they had to resort to using Col. Sanders impersonators in the TV ads.

He's not dead—he's just being kept in a bunker someplace, where he spends his days bitching about how they ruined the gravy.
posted by Flexagon at 9:53 AM on January 20, 2016


KFC gravy is people.
posted by I-baLL at 10:31 AM on January 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm particularly perplexed at his calling out the WW2 base on Vagar. It's right there, and while it's not high quality imagery it's certainly fine. Note that the linked article is nearly two years old.
posted by waitingtoderail at 10:35 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


One of the funniest stories I heard when I worked there was that a conspiracy theory had popped up online about why there was no street map data for a certain part of Silicon Valley. It turned out that the disc drive used during the mapping had crapped out and they simply had too much other work to do to remap it immediately.

It was Street View data that was missing, not street maps.
At the big Google Friday meeting (known as TGIF) a Street View guy had just demoed how they'd added the Tour De France route to Street View.
When it got the bit where Larry and Sergey take questions from employees, I'm the person who got on the mic and asked why nearby Sunnyvale (where I live) was the only Bay Area neighborhood not on street view.
They joked that Sunnyvale should be easy as you could just do one block and then copy and paste (it's suburbia), but in the end they dragged the street view guy back on stage and he admitted they'd lost the hard drive with Sunnyvale on it. I pointed out that it would be easy to re-do Sunnyvale as it was ten minutes drive away, which was "much closer than France". That's how I got my house into street view.
posted by w0mbat at 11:14 AM on January 20, 2016 [16 favorites]


It was Street View data that was missing.

Yeah, typo on my part, sorry.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 2:22 PM on January 20, 2016


It's interesting that the method the Dutch choose for pixelation looks like a modified Voronoi, which is similar to the Swedish M90 camouflage pattern.
posted by a halcyon day at 2:49 PM on January 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


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