Saturday, March 31, 2007

Congress Needs to Mind Own Beeswax About Google/Katrina

Apparently Google Earth is for some reason showing images of pre-Katrina New Orleans, even though they had shown Katrina images before. A guy I've never heard of but whom I already don't like named Brad Miller (he's the chairman of the House's Committee on Science and Technology's subcommittee on investigations and oversight) wants to know why they have done this. Excerpt: "Google's use of old imagery appears to be doing the victims of Hurricane Katrina a great injustice by airbrushing history," subcommittee chairman Brad Miller, D-North Carolina, wrote in a letter to [Google CEO Eric] Schmidt.

Airbrushing history?!? It's not like anyone is going to forget that Katrina happened. My brother was just down there a couple of weeks ago for this basketball thing and he said it was like a third-world country in parts of New Orleans. Let me be quite clear about this. Every single person in America who has enough cognitive functioning to tie their own shoes correctly knows that numerous parts of New Orleans were destroyed as a result of Katrina.

A few things to point out about Google Earth: It doesn't update daily, not by a long shot. There are pics of my house and workplace that are clearly out of date. Second (and more to the point) it's a private company! Not only that, but it's a private company that provides services unparalleled by its competitors, and those services are usually free! Nobody is being forced to use these images for anything, and it looks like the post-Katrina images are available on a paid version of Google Earth. I can't find a specific street or neighborhood mentioned as being problematic, so I'm not sure where to even start eyeballing to do my own research.

Here's something that just aggravates the shit out of me: Edith Holleman, staff counsel for the House subcommittee, said it would be useful to understand how Google acquires and manages its imagery because "people see Google and other Internet engines and it's almost like the official word."

You want to know how Google acquires and manages its imagery? Here's how Google acquires and manages its imagery: Go Fuck Yourselves, Nosy Congresspeople! That's how Google acquires and manages its imagery! Holleman's comments make about as much sense as wanting to subpoena Yahoo every time a piece of spam gets through its spamchecker. Google Earth is a free service from a private company! I am quite certain that market forces will fix whatever of this needs fixing, assuming some meddling Democrat doesn't start trying to micro-manage it. Google's value is in the public's perception of its self-correcting overall reliability and breadth, and it will be motivated naturally to keep that perception and confidence strong.

Google Earth Blog comments on this situation here.

Update, 4/1/07: OK, so I'm confused... Are we talking about Google Earth, or the Google Maps application that uses Google Earth images, or something else? Or is the AP writer confused? There is a certain lack of clarity in the article... AP excerpt: Google does provide imagery of New Orleans and the region following Katrina through its more specialized service called Google Earth.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Donnie Davies said...

I understand your thoughts on the Congress not minding Google's business. Try to understand that for those of us in Lousiana that someone like Ray Nagin may have paid off Google with FEMA money to hide the map images to get tourists down here. That FEMA money should go to people rebuilding, not Google! Even if it was just an accident and Google lost the maps I think the letter to congress is a good thing.

3:42 PM  
Blogger newnorth said...

pensacola still has all the blue roofs on google earth...and most of those are gone now.
Still, a free arial is a free arial!

9:35 PM  

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