"Internal Use Only"
October 24, 2018 12:23 PM   Subscribe

"The longest amount of time any area in the continental United States has gone without an update on Google Earth has been 8 years. From 2008 to 2016, a series of dry lake beds in Southwestern Nevada located in the Tonopah Test Range was a blind spot from the all-seeing corporate monolith continuously mapping the Earth. So we bought a satellite image ourselves. We would like to [invite] you, the reader, to join us at Eyebeam, at 199 Cook Street in Brooklyn, at 6pm on Thursday October 25th to view image #103001000EBC3C00 yourself." Or — since the image is for internal use only — you can look at a painting of the image online. (Previously, related.)
posted by RedOrGreen (20 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
We believe we have an all-seeing eye just a click away on our various screens. Instead, we have unprecedented access to a false earth.

The map: still not the territory.
posted by BungaDunga at 12:35 PM on October 24, 2018 [18 favorites]


The section of the neighborhood across the street from me is still an empty, bulldozed, ready-for-construction field in Street View. That section was built somewhere around 2007-2008. They’re all there in satellite view, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:42 PM on October 24, 2018


The painted version of the image has me thinking about people sharing non-public mapping data this way as somehow related to courtroom sketches. Art displaying what we cannot share with photographs.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:43 PM on October 24, 2018 [7 favorites]


Also, the rigamarole with the picture being "for internal use only"- circumvented by a painting and a showing in Brooklyn, where you sign a document making you very temporarily a contractor with the group- feels more like artistic license than something that is actually in a contract.
posted by BungaDunga at 12:44 PM on October 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


This is something that you need Hubertus Bigend to explain to you.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:49 PM on October 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


> the rigamarole with the picture being "for internal use only"- circumvented by a painting and a showing in Brooklyn, where you sign a document making you very temporarily a contractor with the group

Yes, that's how loopholes work.

See also: Entertainment laws in many cities which make it illegal for an establishment to serve hard liquor unless they are either a restaurant or a private club, typically evaded by requiring patrons to write their name in a ledger and pay a $1 "membership fee" on their first visit.
posted by ardgedee at 12:59 PM on October 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


I know it's an art piece, but the ESRI Community Imagery would've been cheaper.

There are places in Canada that would *love* to see something as new as 8 year old imagery
posted by scruss at 1:06 PM on October 24, 2018


related previously
posted by exogenous at 1:07 PM on October 24, 2018


This is totally the kind of invitation I'd get a huge kick out of and it's almost close enough, long day trip from boston, but then. wait, obscured lake bed, hidden by who, the military, aliens, illuminati.... if you know someone going please check in on them later that night.
posted by sammyo at 1:14 PM on October 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Seems to me they might be in breach of contract if one of their temporary contractors posted a photo of the photo online, so that's a bit of a risk. Also, are you even a contractor, if the contract doesn't involve paying you something? I guess attendees could be handed a dollar in compensation for their "services"?
posted by BungaDunga at 1:14 PM on October 24, 2018


The thing that gets me about satellite imagery blind spots is *who are they hiding it from*? Russia has satellites. China has satellites. Japan, the EU, India, etc all have satellites. And with this article, we see that someone can pony up $2000 to a company and get an image. So the only people who seem to be left out are the general public.
posted by fings at 2:04 PM on October 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


Interrupting my train of thought
lines of longitude and latitude
posted by sydnius at 2:24 PM on October 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


The problem with all large datasets. Everyone wants to create them, no one wants to pay to update them. All glory goes to the creator.

Also its amazing how we disparage "old" satellite data on a weekly basis at work when 10 years ago we still had to go places if we wanted to see them or measure stuff. Many happy hours of my career were spent going places, often taking days to get there, flying reconnaissance, boating, hiking about.... Blissfully cut off from phones and the internet for days or weeks at a time. The younger generation have no idea what they're missing out on.
posted by fshgrl at 2:56 PM on October 24, 2018 [9 favorites]


Internal use only, eh... That must certainly be highly valuable and interesting information. Or just possibly, a ridiculous publicity stunt.

I mean, seriously, and I quote:
Update: This post has been updated to note that Google updated its historical dataset to include images of the Tonopah Gap from both 2014 and 2015, making the total gap remaining 6 years.
Which, I mean... That does mean that currently, the most recent image is not the one you bought but cannot show us, right? The most recent one is from Google?

Either way, there isn't even a believable narrative about something malicious going on here. I mean, I imagine most people would find it pretty reasonable for a government to at least try to restrict global access to high-resolution satellite imagery of military installations, no? There's just this collection of drooling implications about "first amendment rights [being] routinely sacrificed en masse", and questions about heavily implied self-censorship going unanswered. I'd need to hear a LOT more to think this isn't just conspiracy-nut bait.
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 4:12 PM on October 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


I mean, I imagine most people would find it pretty reasonable for a government to at least try to restrict global access to high-resolution satellite imagery of military installations, no?
I imagine most people living in an open and democratic society would find it a lot more reasonable if they chose to do so in an officially documented way that makes legal challenges possible.
posted by eotvos at 5:23 PM on October 24, 2018


OK so, you'd like to sue Google? You're certainly free to do so, right? Based on... I guess the theory that they voluntarily provided only 99.99% of a dataset, rather than 100%? I'm pretty sure they're legally allowed to do so, though.

Now, if the government interfered, the worst case I see is basically the equivalent of someone talking to a journalist and saying, I hear you have a story that might hurt us, can you hold off on it, we'll make sure it doesn't hurt your career. Which might not always be OK, but there are circumstances where it's not evil, right? Same way it's OK that you or I can't FOIA the most recent nuclear launch codes.

But importantly, if anyone's constitutional rights are violated here, it's not yours or mine -- it's the first-amendment rights of a multi-100-billion dollar corporation. Which, yeah, I'm gonna worry about other things.
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 7:20 PM on October 24, 2018


But importantly, if anyone's constitutional rights are violated here, it's not yours or mine -- it's the first-amendment rights of a multi-100-billion dollar corporation. Which, yeah, I'm gonna worry about other things.

The problem with that argument is that if the government interferes with one groups first amendment rights, it still negatively impacts the flow of information to the rest of us. Violation of rights do not happen in a vacuum.
posted by Apoch at 4:02 AM on October 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


In my region rural land ownership and rights are based on 150+ year old surveys and a lot of guessing and estimates.

The government has no will or capability to update the data.

An acquaintance is working on a startup that is using privately acquired satellite images and their own drones to identify errors in the old surveys.

They use the data and lawyers to

A. Claim bits and pieces of land that don't belong to anyone, specially at the edges of state owned land and nature preserves.

B. Find conflicts that have gone unnoticed for generations and convince one of the parties to sue the other and take care of the lawsuit in exchange for a piece of the reclaimed land.

Basically using private satellite data that is too expensive for the local government to steal land from the people and to instigate conflict in communities that have been at peace for generations.

I don't remember where I was going with this, it was something g about the power of satellite images and how they should be free for the people or something.
posted by Dr. Curare at 9:31 AM on October 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


> The problem with that argument is that if the government interferes with one groups first amendment rights [...]

Corporations aren't people, my friend.

(with apologies to Mitt Romney I guess)
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 11:03 AM on October 25, 2018


OK so, you'd like to sue Google? You're certainly free to do so, right? Based on... I guess the theory that they voluntarily provided only 99.99% of a dataset, rather than 100%? I'm pretty sure they're legally allowed to do so, though.
I'm saying that when representatives of a democratic government explicitly ask a company to hide information from the public, it's reasonable to expect them to tell the public that they're doing so and give a judge the opportunity to prevent that intervention.
posted by eotvos at 4:06 AM on October 28, 2018


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