by Adel Manoukian
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer expressed concern today over Apple’s and Google’s plans to create a digital mapping system which would publish distinct images that may be considered an invasion of privacy. The companies’ digital mapping plan would use military-grade spy planes to map communities with technology strong enough to capture objects as small as four inches, even catching private activities in one’s backyard.
The companies do not disclose to communities about when the mapping occurs, which is something Schumer thinks should be changed.
In a letter to Apple and Google’s CEOS Tim Cook and Larry Page respectively, the senator requested that the corporations provide notification when communities are mapped, blur photos of individuals and any sensitive infrastructure detail, and give property owners the option to opt-out of having their property mapped in such programs like Google Maps and Google Earth. He also asks that Apple and Google explain the safeguards that they plan to put in place to protect privacy needs and security in greater detail.
Schumer also expressed concern that the companies’ competition may compromise basic privacy expectations and create security risks as criminals and terrorists may have access to secure locations. The maps would possibly provide these criminals and terrorists with detailed views of sensitive utilities. This might mean they could have more control over the power and water grids of the city as many power lines, power sub stations and reservoir access points will be made visible, unlike their state in the current maps. With any sort of measures, Schumer believes it would be impossible to secure every location.
“We must strike the proper balance between privacy and technology,” said Schumer in a statement released today. “And while the use of this technology may well have very functional and important uses, we need to make sure that reasonable protections are in place to protect individuals and the public.”
Google plans to create these three dimensional maps that cover over 300 million people's homes by the end of 2012.
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