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Another bad bargain

A republican assemblyman from San Diego wants to force Google to blur Street View images of potential terrorist targets, like schools and hospitals.

I got into an argument about the implications of such a law on Download Squad of all places. Such law would be asinine I argued, because in blurring the images the government would essentially be creating a “hit list” of potential targets. A terrorist not familiar with California infrastructure would need only look at what is blurred on the map to see what the municipal government considers to be its most vulnerable assets. Further detail about these public buildings would be easily accessible in person, from street level.

The Indian courts are considering a similar piece of legislation in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks. The terrorists may have used Google Earth to plan and execute their actions, but remember that they also have used boats, automobiles, and cellular phones. And together with Google services these same technologies allowed for the efficient operation of the rescue efforts.

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety,” Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1775. Street View is not an essential liberty, but open access to technology and information is essential. It empowers all citizens, and we should make sure we don’t trade it, piecemeal, for some provisional notions of security.

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