Google Caves To Pentagon Wishes - InformationWeek

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Commentary
3/7/2008
10:00 AM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
Commentary
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Google Caves To Pentagon Wishes

The Pentagon said that Google's Street Views is a threat to national security and made Google pull images taken on streets near U.S. military bases. Google complied with the governmental order, even though the images were taken from public streets. Freedom of information and security butt heads once again.

The Pentagon said that Google's Street Views is a threat to national security and made Google pull images taken on streets near U.S. military bases. Google complied with the governmental order, even though the images were taken from public streets. Freedom of information and security butt heads once again.The government was concerned that the images, which included views of the entrances to military bases, were a threat. Gen. Gene Renuart, head of the military command responsible for homeland defense, said, "It actually shows where all the guards are. It shows how the barriers go up and down. It shows how to get in and out of buildings. I think that poses a real security risk for our military installations."

But the images were taken from public streets, where anyone could walk and take the same pictures and/or video and post them to the Internet. The question remains whether the government had the right to request that the images be removed. While that question is assuredly being debated, Google complied. Google spokesman Larry Yu said, "We have been contacted by the military. In those instances where they (the U.S military) have expressed concerns about the imagery, we have accommodated their requests."

Street Views has caused controversy from the start. Many privacy advocates claimed that even though images were taken in public places -- where no reasonable assumption of privacy really exists -- people were being exposed doing things they might not wish to have plastered on the Internet for all to see.

According to this Reuters report, "a man was pictured exiting a San Francisco strip club. In another case, a woman was shown sunbathing. Complaints have even included a woman asking that a picture of her cat be taken down, a request Google denied."

This is definitely a thorny issue. The government has been eating away at various public freedoms and due processes for the sake of security. While I believe ensuring our protection is one of the federal government's main functions, Benjamin Franklin's words continue to ring in my head: "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

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