Kalam Expresses Concern Over Google Satellite Photo Service

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Syed Amin Jafri & Agencies

Published — Sunday 16 October 2005

Last Update 16 October 2005 3:00 am

HYDERABAD, 16 October 2005 — Indian President A.P.J. Abdul yesterday expressed concern over a free mapping program from Google Inc. that he said could help terrorists by providing aerial photos of potential targets.

Google Earth, an Internet website launched in June this year, allows users to access overlapping satellite photos. Though not all areas are highly detailed, some images are very high resolution, and some show sensitive locations in various countries.

“You will realize that some of the developing countries, which are already in danger of terrorist attacks, have been singularly chosen to provide such high resolutions about them,” Kalam told top police officials here.

South Korea, Netherlands and Thailand have expressed similar concerns.

South Korea has already raised the issue with the United States. South Korean newspaper reports have said the Google Earth service provides images of the presidential Blue House and military bases in the country, which remains technically at war with communist North Korea. North Korean sites such as its main nuclear research facility at Yongbyon are also displayed on the service.

On India, the Google site contains clear aerial photos of the Parliament building, president’s house and surrounding government offices in New Delhi. There are also some clear shots of Indian defense establishments.

Kalam, who was a scientist and guided India’s missile program before he became president, called for new laws to restrain such dissemination. Existing laws in some countries regarding spatial observations over their territory and the United Nation’s recommendations in this respect are inadequate, he said, but did not elaborate.

Kalam also called for a national mission for “vision for all” to tackle the incidence of blindness in the country. Participating in the World Sight Day organized by “Vision 2020: The Right to Sight” and the Lions International here, the president said the national mission has to be evolved for protocol-driven treatment involving mission-oriented doctors throughout the country. This team would organize a series of eye camps and reinforcing many eye hospitals with technology to cover larger population for the treatment.

Governmental support could be made easier. The president pointed out that India already had a national program for control of blindness. There was a universal sympathy to the visually impaired.

This service-oriented attitude drawing on the sympathy could bring together a number of partners in the national mission. To improve the availability of eye care facility to the rural masses, the president recommended deployment of mobile eye clinics by all the eye care centers.

He said that the estimated number of blind people in India during the last decade came down from nine million in 1990 to 6.7 million in 2002.

“We have to aim that in the coming decade it should come down to less than 4 million,” he pointed out.

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