When I came across this piece of information stating that Google Maps (or Google Earth) doesn’t cover Israel ‘properly’, I was a bit sceptic and I decided to check myself.
In the past, I came across many aerial satellite maps in many countries as part of my work in engineering, and I know it is quite common to remove/blur/cover any details that can be considered of ‘sensitive’ nature i.e. military or intelligence bases (especially if American in an Arab country!), and any other asset that can be considered of strategic importance (power plants, nuclear plants etc).
But what’s not common is to assume a whole country is a ‘sensitive’ location, and stops it from appearing in the standard resolution of the powerful global open-to-all tool Google Maps; this is exactly how Google Maps treats Israel – a country that can’t be photographed in detail.
Google doesn’t cover Israel in the same detailed resolution as it does with any other country, irrespective of the location, city or neighbourhood. The reason is that Google comes under the Congress jurisdiction which bans any American company from aerially scanning Israel – specifically. This is clearly the purpose of the National Defense Authorization Act – passed in 1997 – in its section 1064 which states the following:
(a) COLLECTION AND DISSEMINATION.—A department or agency of the United States may issue a license for the collection or dissemination by a non-Federal entity of satellite imagery with respect to Israel only if such imagery is no more detailed or precise than satellite imagery of Israel that is available from commercial sources.
(b) DECLASSIFICATION AND RELEASE.—A department or agency of the United States may declassify or otherwise release satellite imagery with respect to Israel only if such imagery is no more detailed or precise than satellite imagery of Israel that is available from commercial sources.
I could be stating the obvious here but for me, this is another hard proof that the Congress is completely under the influence of Israel, and their strategic existence is closely linked. At the end of the day, this is the legislative body of a country protecting another country in its own laws.
I went to Google Maps, and took two screen shots from two different location which were:
1. Beit Mery, a town in Mount Lebanon, which has no theoretic strategic importance to Israel i.e. a non-Palestinian or non-Hezbollah area
2. A residential neighbourhood just outside Haifa.
Can you see the difference in the scale/resolutions between the two shots? They were taken at the closest possible angles.
If this applies to the giant Google, what about other American giants like Facebook, Twitter or Apple, and their combined billions of users. Scanning and monitoring them is taken for granted, but censoring them for the sake of Israel is not an untrue assumption…or fact.
Just last week Apple removed the ‘intifada’ (uprising) app from the Apple Store (app store), claiming it calls for violence. I downloaded this app to my iPhone, and it only gives news on Palestine. Same acts (more than once) were undertaken by Facebook when they removed the Facebook Intifada page(s) for the same reason – first page had more than 350,000 ‘likes’; Facebook didn’t seem to have a problem with the other pages calling for the revolutions in Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia as part of the Arab Spring.
Going to back to where I started, Google under the American Congress, a serious question comes to mind: do our Lebanese government or Lebanese Army interrogate Google in what they scan in Lebanon? Or who cares because Israel and others do it by themselves anyway?