Should Google Maps Show You Parts of the World the US Government Blocks?

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When I look up my childhood apartment on Google Maps, I see the fences in the park across the street. But if I look up Israel, I get a muddy brown mess—because Congress said so, by law.

Give it a try. While most parts of the US (and much of the globe) are filled with crisp, high-resolution satellite imagery, Israel (and disputed Palestinian turf) are relegated to blurry crap. This isn't a mistake. The good stuff exists—but the US government won't let us see it.


In '97, Congress passed a law banning the distribution of "detailed satellite imagery relating to Israel." And because Google sources its satellite photos from US firms, we're all locked out.

Does this make sense? Presumably, the law exists to protect Israel, a perennially high priority of Congress. But with rockets raining down and gunfights erupting along their borders without satellite images on Google, what harm could releasing geographic data do? Should freedom of information be trumped by Israeli national security? Should the laws of one country (ours) affect the access of the entire rest of the planet?


As Mother Jones points out, we may not have to care about this question for long: Turkey's GokTurk satellite program will provide detailed imagery of Israel to the world in two years. And there won't be anything Congress can do about that. [via Mother Jones]