Google Earth as terrorist tool?

Computerworld reports that the terrorists who attacked Mumbai last week used Google Earth to learn their way around.

They also used other technologies, such as satellite phones and GPS systems. The story infers that by making high-tech tools like Google Earth easy to use and Internet-accessible, Google is somehow aiding terrorists. But just because terrorists are tech-savvy doesn't mean the tools themselves are to blame.

The story itself bears this out. It says that former Indian president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam warned in a 2005 lecture that services like Google Earth could be misused by terrorists, especially since they tend to expose defense and military installations. But the places attacked weren't military in nature. They were hotels, restaurants and railway stations that could be found simply by using a printed tourist map. So where did Google Earth go wrong? By being more intuitive and easy to use than a printed map?

With that line of reasoning, we might as well outlaw the Internet itself. Any tool, no matter how innocent seeming (i.e. box cutters) can be turned into a deadly weapon in the hands of desperate terrorists. But that's no reason to decry useful technologies like Google Earth. The Internet doesn't kill people; terrorists do.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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