The Daily ReTORt

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Is Google Earth Evil???

Image for "1984" movie
On today’s Good Morning America (GMA), there was an interesting story about a municipality on Long Island, New York that used Google’s free satellite mapping service (Google earth) to identify hundreds of scofflaws that had illegally installed private swimming pools on their properties without getting necessary building permits.

Once found, the violators had to pay up. While this generated a needed infusion of cash to the cash-strapped municipality, it raises an interesting issue between the invasion of personal privacy versus the ability to track lawbreakers and even violent criminals. Click below for the story – [NOTE: there’s a :30 second commercial that GMA makes you watch.]

The question this story raises is important because it pits two inalienable rights against each other that Americans hold dear – namely the right to privacy and the right to public safety. While the technical application of Google earth’s satellite imagery might not be evil by design, the steps down a slippery slope to its evil application can readily be seen.

Nobody wants the prying eyes of the government peering from geo-synchronous orbit through an open back door or open window curtain, but that’s a reality given what any entity – including the government – can now do using Google’s free, public application to view a person’s backyard, back porch or patio.

We need to be aware of it, but I think the real risk that’s facing freedom-loving Americans is that we won’t recognize an overbearing government before its too late.

Most conspiracy theorists envision that our governing future will resemble a “Big Brotheresque,” fascist, regime patterned after George Orwell’s 1984 [see phot insert above] or Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale where oppression and brutality are the sanctioned laws of the land that are held in place by ruthless centralized bureaucracies.

That’s what we typically think will happen and are looking for.

Unfortunately, the future is more likely to follow an imperceptible, yet incremental erosion of personal freedoms that will be chipped away via seemingly innocent synergies between public and private partnerships – such as this Google earth example mentioned above.

Each further incursion could largely go unnoticed via our tacit consent since “we the people” are too enamored and preoccupied with our “bread and circuses” to bother over such pesky things as inalienable rights and such.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I question if it’s a good idea for technology, such as Google earth, that provides benefit on an individual basis to be available in the exact same way to a larger, more powerful bureaucracy.

So what’s good for the goose (you and me) should NOT be good for the gander (government) especially when it enables the gander to “gander” over the goose’s shoulder.

What do you think?


  1. The right to privacy is not now, nor has it ever been, absolute.

  2. @Scott, your point is well made! It's good to hear from you and I'm honored that you checked out this blog post. Please stay in touch and drop me a line on FB to let me know how you're doing. Take care!