Online Maps Now, Street Photography Next?

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Photo of our favorite building, LA’s US Bank Tower, from Google Maps

Assemblyman Joel Anderson has introduced legislation in California that would restrict the amount of detail involved in online mapping tools. In other words, he doesn’t want terrorists getting too familiar with the air ducts in a government building’s air shaft.

In the measure Anderson proposed last month, government buildings, along with schools, hospitals and churches, would be blurred in online satellite images-and violators will have to pay a $250,000 penalty per day.

The question that arises then is, where does it end? We blur out government buildings and schools, but really is that protecting us when these facilities are accessible through all manner of photos, maps and, uh, the street? And what does this say about street photography in general? Undoubtedly it will feed into the overall paranoia and fear of cameras, making things that much worse. Will street and architectural photographers eventually be forced to blur their images because it contains one these “sensitive” structures that Anderson is trying to eliminate from online maps? We will no longer be able to post images on the web of people, buildings and things that are clearly visible from public spaces? Maybe we should just jump in the DeLorean and head back to 1984 before it’s too late.

And, lastly, are we not trying to solve a massive global ideological problem with tiny, insignificant Band-Aids?

CNN.com has this interview with Anderson today, where among other things, Anderson says, “The fact is I would be remiss in my job if I didn’t take this seriously.” But really, is it an assemblyman’s job to take on technology, or is he looking for more high-profile causes to attach his name to? (Anderson also sponsored a bill which forced state pensions to stop investing in companies doing business with Iran.)

Article via CNN.com

Thanks to Geoff for the link.

4 Responses to “Online Maps Now, Street Photography Next?”


  1. 1 Ed Monczynski March 12, 2009 at 6:34 am

    So California may be the start of many national trends but to say that the state started the ban on global mapping is an infringement of our first amendment right, the freedom of speech. The argument that Joel Anderson has for the new bill AB-255 is that it will prevent future terrorism from occurring. The second point he makes is that terrorists can use Google earths precision mapping to calculate operations similar to the attacks in India. If Google earth is going to be censored on these facts than that means our topographic and other maps need to be censored as well because of the fact that they show government buildings and often times have more information on a paper map than Google earth does. I believe that Anderson’s accusations are not legitimate and that AB-255 should not be passed.

  2. 2 Street Photographer March 12, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Governmental hysteria generally ignores the fact that you don’t need google maps to plan a terror attack (or a vacation!) – you just go to your bookstore and buy a map.

    Too many politicians would like to see street photography killed off – in the name of national security, of course. We already have enough ignorant policemen and security officers gleefully enforcing privacy laws that don’t exist.

  3. 3 Dave March 12, 2009 at 8:47 am

    This is totally nuts. Joel needs to be sent to India or something permanently. Why does the USA always treat the branches instead of attacking the tree. If our guys were doing their jobs and infiltrating more then we wouldn’t be having to handicap our freaking Google maps !! Come on USA, get with the program,…… I can figure this out and Im not even in the military or govt.

    Truth of the matter is the Terrorists in India or any other Taliban attach have not used the details afforded in these maps.
    They simply flew planes through the entire building or placed bombs where people were standing. In the India attack they only used it (as far as I’ve heard on the news) to make a time line for rendezvous, Which could have been done by literally walking the property beforehand.

    They didn’t place bombs or poison gas in air vents, they didn’t use a structural weakness to plant explosives, They didn’t take out the electricity or phone lines, they didn’t block exits with barricades, They didn’t do anything like that, nothing was done that would have added to the body count……For all we know they used it to plan an efficient route that afforded them a grande mocha @ Starbucks on the way in. WTF?

    A bill like this will only force them to do MUCH closer inspections of property which will push them to utilize their exposure in public as a risk factor, basically they will NOW start to look for those things in person which they could NOT see from the maps in the first place. Common sense guys !

    The proper thing to do would be to have sensitive details not available in the first place, IE, hospitals should have their ducting and wiring painted to look like part of the concrete from the air, its easy to do and costs are not much. This is basic common sense. You aren’t so dumb that you think terrorists with a few mill to throw around cannot buy a helicopter and some nice photo gear for 1/5 that amount. Are you that dumb Joel Anderson ?

    I guess California will force terrorists to “step up their game” and give us something to complain about, although hopefully not.


  1. 1 Aerial Photography Tool for Terror, Paranoia « Trackback on June 9, 2009 at 12:50 am

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