Sunday 24th of January 2021

Google Sydney CBD Maps Go Fuzzy

This could be entirely coincidental, but worth noting nonetheless.

The Age is reporting today that where once you could see the details of the clothing of people walking around the Opera House, now such detailed close observation is imposssible. The maps for areas of Sydney outside of Sydney's CBD are as sharp as ever.

Google denies they've been censored, claiming that the maps were changed due to problem with a supplier.

An SMH piece in January (which uses the same phot of the Opera House as the new Age one) explained how a three-seater plane had been given permission to fly low over Sydney on Australia Day to take high-resolution photos.

[extract]

The plane is scheduled to begin flying over Centennial and Moore parks at 9am from where it will head out to Bronte Beach. The flight will zig-zag its way across the inner east, the city, Harbour and the lower North Shore, ending at about 2.15pm.

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I'd be more convinced with today's explanation of Google told us what happened to the photos they took, and who were the suppliers of the removed photos.

Discreet censorship

Yes Richard

I did notice the change... The pictures of Sydney on Google are at least eight years old in many place. The strange thing which may confirm — or not — what Google says is that there are a lot of more recent pictures taken by ordinary people like you and me on the ground, with various angles taken of the major features with high definition. Are we all terrorists by providing this info as tourists to terrorists?

May I suggest that what Google says is baloney because contractual problems would have to be sorted out before usage, except if there is "news value" and "extract are shown" with acknowledgement of source, in the case of which there is no contractual problem.

It smells of discreet censorship... and satellite pictures can have a resolution of at least 20 centimetres, that is show details that are 20 cm long as a distinct dot. With extrapolation, some spy satellite pictures can decipher your number plates.

Questions

Gus, I have trouble with the fact that journos "reporting" this story aren't asking a few questions.  What is the picture supply probem?  Will the situation be resolved before APEC?  Was any pressure put on the supplier to withdraw the photos from availability?

I was wondering if it might be a detection method for terrorists, ie a tourist might have the currently available maps in a laptop, but a potential perpetrator may have the high-definition versions safely lodged in a laptop (in Pakistan or Iran of course).

What next?  I'm waiting for radiological exercises in Sydney, like the one in Manhattan on the weekend.