Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Sensitive Korean sites available at Google Earth

The Donga Ilbo reports that "concerns are being raised" that South Korea's national security may be compromised by the incredibly easy access to satellite maps available at the new Google Earth service.

In particular, the Donga Ilbo cited Ch'ong-wadae and US military bases as major security facilities whose detailed photos, building locations, and roads can be found in great detail.

This is not true just of South Korea, of course, and the Donga Ilbo mentions that an magnified or enhanced view of Pearl Harbor in the U.S. state of Hawaii reveals war vessels and can help identify facilities, roads, and routes.

Why is Korea concerned? The article sums it up nicely: "However, critics say such information could be utilized as basic material for foreign terrorist organizations trying to attack Korea."

That's right, terrorism is as big a threat as it ever was, and long before 9/11, visitors to the tower at Namsan were required to leave their cameras at the base of the tower so they couldn't take pictures of USFK's Yongsan Garrison. Let's not forget, there's technically still a war going on.

Both the Ministry of Defense's National Intelligence Service (NIS) and Ch'ong-wadae are saying they don't think they could do much:
The National Intelligence Service (NIS) will make specific judgments, but the satellite photos of Cheong Wa Dae and military bases released on the website‘Google Earth’ might violate domestic security laws. However, there is no way to regulate it with domestic laws as it is a foreign website in which the pictures are taken by foreign commercial satellites.
For now they're just trying to get Google to cooperate. Ch'ong-wadae said, "The National Security Council is striving to find ways by cooperating with the related agencies of the U.S.” I really do understand their worry. I'm sure other countries feel the same.

As for me, my apartment block is clearly visible, and people can see me blogging in my breakfast nook.

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