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Davis, California

Thursday, April 18, 2024

California bill proposes blurring online satellite pictures

With Google Maps’ Street View feature, users can see every detail of a Davis block – but so can terrorists, according to California State Representative Joel Anderson (R-El Cajon).

Anderson’s proposed bill AB 255 would require companies to blur Internet mapping images. Though details of the bill are still in discussion, Anderson’s bill suggests hospitals, schools, government buildings and places of worship be blurred to protect citizens.

“People fundamentally understand that we shouldn’t be helping criminals,” Anderson said.

He cited examples of websites such as Google Maps helping terrorists in attacks in Mumbai. In Israel, Hamas used Internet mapping sites to locate children’s centers, he said.

Countries such as England, Israel and India have already removed high levels of detail on Internet mapping sites. California and eventually the rest of the U.S. should follow suit, he said.

“[Internet mapping sites] are an integral tool for terrorists,” Anderson said.

Google spokesperson Elaine Filadelfo said Google Maps is a useful and valuable tool. She used its Street View feature to look at apartments when moving to California from the East Coast, she said.

“We are happy to talk to [Anderson’s] office regarding the legislation,” Filadelfo said of Google’s public stance on the new bill. “We hope to have a productive conversation.”

Google already allows users to request removal of an image or to report a concern about images on Google Maps or Google Earth, Filadelfo said.

Anderson already met with Microsoft to work on the bill and its effect on its services such as Virtual Earth, he said.

“I’m not closed minded at all,” he said in regard to his two hour meeting with Microsoft.

Mapquest spokesperson Chris Savarese declined to comment as the company does not comment on pending legislation.

If the bill passes, satellite images of UC Davis could be affected. The bill has not been a big concern for the university, said Jason Murphy, director of state government relations at UC Davis.

“I would doubt that this would be a bill that UC would take a position on,” Murphy said. “I have not heard of it in any policy committees, so perhaps it is a little early to weigh in.”

Depending on its involvement in the bill, UC Davis could conceivably decide whether or not to have their image blurred, Murphy said.

The bill was submitted to California legislature on Feb. 11, and since its submission there has been some confusion. Some people have the misconception that they wouldn’t be able to use online mapping tools, Anderson said.

“But really, [you] wouldn’t be able to count bricks in the building,” he said, explaining that images would still be visible, just not in great detail.

For Anderson, the bill isn’t so much about the convenience and helpfulness of Internet mapping sites, which he admits are cool and a tool he enjoys, but about safety.

“It is my job to make sure that citizens of California are protected,” Anderson said.


SASHA LEKACH can be reached at city@theaggie.org.








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