June 4, 2007

Globalization of Terrestrial Information

Globalization of Terrestrial Information

 (Ref : “Google Earth worries ISRO chief, wants dialogue”.   Press Trust of India New Delhi, July 8, 2006, HT dated July 9, 2006)
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief Dr. G Madhavan Nair has expressed concern at high-resolution satellite images offered by Google. However, the ISRO chief has reiterated the issue earlier raised by the President A P J Abdul Kalam while addressing the National Police Academy at Hyderabad in mid-October, 2005. The President expressed concern over the security threat posed by Google Earth’s free mapping program available on the internet. Since then the Chief of Army Staff General J J Singh, Secretary DST Prof V. S. Ramamurthy, Surveyor General Maj. Gen. M. Gopal Rao, and others expressed that it could severely compromise a country’s security. While these officials did their bit and took some action but then many security experts in and outside the country, even within government have articulated different view. The IDSA expert C. Uday Bhaskar, Sandia National Laboratories Security analyst Vipin Gupta, Director John Pike, FMNN Privacy Analyst Ravi Visvesvaraya Prasad and others feel :

“……it is is part of technology enabling characteristics of the present times ……”;

“…… absolutely no practical, feasible method at present to prevent satellites from photographing sensitive Indian sites. The only solution is to camouflage them appropriately, or keep them underground or underwater, as had been done for the Pokharan II blasts.”

“…… call for limiting access to is also unfeasible, since potential terrorists can access this website, or other similar websites such as MSN TerraServer, from other countries without any restrictions whatsoever.”

“…… several other sources from where images of far higher resolutions can be obtained. DigitalGlobe’s QuickBird satellite images have resolution 2 feet. The Landsat-7 satellite offers 1.4-metre resolutions of almost any location in the world for just one dollar per twenty square miles. Google’s rival, Microsoft, offers services such as MSN Virtual Earth, TerraServer, and TerraFly, similar to Google Earth.”

“……Millions of very high-resolution photographs of US and NATO defence and nuclear installations are available for free at Google Earth, …… show the White House; the headquarters of USA’s National Security Agency at Fort Meade, US chemical weapons depots, US nuclear missile sites, and US and NATO defence bases all over the world in far greater detail.”

“…… India’s defence forces state: …. we can also access high-resolution photographs of terrorist camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, as well as of Kahuta and Sargodha”.

“…… The Indian government should instead focus on utilizing the high-resolution photographs for positive purposes such as meteorology, hurricane and cyclone forecasting, emergency and disaster relief, agricultural and irrigation planning, mineral exploration, oil and gas exploration, monitoring soil erosion and use of river waters, urban planning, etc.”

“…… Indian civil society is already using data from Google Earth for positive purposes. “

“French remote sensing company that specializes in products for intelligence, security, and peacekeeping operations — has issued a study of Google Earth, titled Google Earth Study: Impacts and Uses For Defence and Security.”

Exploring the views  mentioned above  and  those reported in the world wide web about security related challenges vis-a-vis the technology enabling characteristics of the present times in creating a transparent globe where anyone can get basic information about anyone else, I feel : Google Earth and their competitors MSN Virtual Earth, TerraServer, and TerraFly and others are trying to bring a revolution in ‘Globalization of Terrestrial Information’ about the world we live in. However I am suggesting a few measures that will safeguard the security aspects. (MIL,Jul 13, 2006, by R C Chakraborty, Vol XXXII (No. 7), Jul 2006, International Reporter New Delhi)

For complete article move on to Website URL :


By R C Chakraborty, July 12, 2006, Former Director of DTRL & ISSA, DRDO,,

Blog at