Fear of Aerial Images
Time for some more fear about terrorists using maps and images on the Internet.
But the more striking images come when Portzline clicks on the “bird’s-eye” option offered by the map service. The overhead views, which come chiefly from satellites, are replaced with strikingly clear oblique-angle photos, chiefly shot from aircraft. By clicking another button, he can see the same building from all four sides.
“What we’re seeing here is a guard shack,” Portzline said, pointing to a rooftop structure. “This is a communications device for the nuclear plant.”
He added, “This particular building is the air intake for the control room. And there’s some nasty thing you could do to disable the people in the control room. So this type of information should not be available. I look at this and just say, ‘Wow.’ ”
Terror expert and author Brian Jenkins agreed that the pictures are “extraordinarily impressive.”
“If I were a terrorist planning an attack, I would want that imagery. That would facilitate that mission,” he said. “And given the choice between renting an airplane or trying some other way to get it, versus tapping in some things on my computer, I certainly want to do the latter. (It will) reduce my risk, and the first they’re going to know about my attack is when it takes place.”
Gadzooks, people, enough with the movie plots.
Joel Anderson, a member of the California Assembly, has more expansive goals. He has introduced a bill in the state Legislature that would prohibit “virtual globe” services from providing unblurred pictures of schools, churches and government or medical facilities in California. It also would prohibit those services from providing street-view photos of those buildings.
“It struck me that a person in a tent halfway around the world could target an attack like that with a laptop computer,” said Anderson, a Republican legislator who represents San Diego’s East County. Anderson said he doesn’t want to limit technology, but added, “There’s got to be some common sense.”
I wonder why he thinks that “schools, churches and government or medical facilities” are terrorist targets worth protecting, and movie theaters, stadiums, concert halls, restaurants, train stations, shopping malls, Toys-R-Us stores on the day after Thanksgiving, train stations, and theme parks are not. After all, “there’s got to be some common sense.”
Now, both have launched efforts to try to get Internet map services to remove or blur images of sensitive sites, saying the same technology that allows people to see a neighbor’s swimming pool can be used by terrorists to chose targets and plan attacks.
Yes, and the same technology that allows people to call their friends can be used by terrorists to choose targets and plan attacks. And the same technology that allows people to commute to work can be used by terrorists to plan and execute attacks. And the same technology that allows you to read this blog post…repeat until tired.
Of course, this is nothing I haven’t said before:
Criminals have used telephones and mobile phones since they were invented. Drug smugglers use airplanes and boats, radios and satellite phones. Bank robbers have long used cars and motorcycles as getaway vehicles, and horses before then. I haven’t seen it talked about yet, but the Mumbai terrorists used boats as well. They also wore boots. They ate lunch at restaurants, drank bottled water, and breathed the air. Society survives all of this because the good uses of infrastructure far outweigh the bad uses, even though the good uses are — by and large — small and pedestrian and the bad uses are rare and spectacular. And while terrorism turns society’s very infrastructure against itself, we only harm ourselves by dismantling that infrastructure in response — just as we would if we banned cars because bank robbers used them too.
You’re not going to stop terrorism by deliberately degrading our infrastructure. Refuse to be terrorized, everyone.