Earth observation is a science and technology with tremendous power to collect data over the whole of the Earth at many wavelengths and at many spatial resolutions. But does this science and technology, or rather the use of this science and technology, have an ethical dimension? This article explores the application of ethical concepts to Earth observation. Three main aspects of ethics are examined: duty theories of ethics, consequentialist ethics, and environmental ethics. These ethical ideas are then applied to the UN Principles on Remote Sensing, the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters and to Google Earth, and also to questions of security and privacy. The article concludes that there is no absolute ethical position in relation to Earth observation, but a dependency on the perspective of the observer. For link to the article (but it’s behind a $58 paywall, seriously), click here.
The Geo-Wiki Project: Validation Competition
Owing to the importance of global land cover in disciplines such as climate change, food security and land-use modelling, the creation of a global land cover calibration and validation dataset is essential. To help us achieve this goal, we have established a global sample of validation points which we want you to classify in this competition. You will be presented with pixels overlaid on Google Earth and we would like you to tell us what land cover types you can see up to a maximum of three classes. As most pixels contain multiple land cover types, this will provide us with valuable information for future validation of land cover maps and to get a better understanding on how much people have modified the landscape.
The top 10 classifiers will be invited to join as co-authors on a scientific publication. The score will be based equally on a quality evaluation and the number of validations provided. The publication will be called: How much wilderness is there left on this planet? It will be an extension of the work done by Sandersen et al., i.e. The Human Footprint and the Last of the Wild, which you can find here. Furthermore, the top three classifiers will be awarded Amazon gift certificates with a value of 50 Euro.
The competition will end September 15th, 2012 at 23:59:59 CEST.
For more information, got to Welcome to Geo-Wiki Project.
Google Earth and the Middle East
Posted on 2011/03/03 by Stefan Geens, Ogle Earth
The Middle East is where Google Earth has perhaps had the deepest geopolitical impact since its introduction in June 2005. In these 5+ years, the wide availability of high resolution imagery of the region to anyone with an internet connection has caused a slew of governments to fret, and not just the Arab dictatorships — Israel and the UK have also worried, as we’ll see. In his New York Times op-ed column on Wednesday, Thomas Friedman calls Google Earth one of the “not-so-obvious forces” behind the revolutionary fervor currently gripping the Middle East. The reason cited by Friedman: in 2006, Google made visible the opulent palaces of Bahrain’s ruling family to a populace in the grip of a housing shortage. Outrage ensued, albeit online. The inequalities were simply too striking. …
For full text of the article, you really must visit Google Earth and the Middle East | Ogle Earth.
An Indian Court has been called to ban Google Earth amid suggestions the online satellite imaging was used to help plan the terror attacks that killed more than 170 people in Mumbai last month.
A petition entered at the Bombay High Court alleges that the Google Earth service, “aids terrorists in plotting attacks”. Advocate Amit Karkhanis has urged the court to direct Google to blur images of sensitive areas in the country until the case is decided.
There are indications that the gunmen who stormed Mumbai on November 26, and the people trained them, were technically literate. The group appears to have used complex GPS systems to navigate their way to Mumbai by sea. They communicated by satellite phone, used mobile phones with several different SIM cards, and may have monitored events as the siege unfolded via handheld Blackberry web browsers.
Police in Mumbai have said the terrorists familiarised themselves with the streets of Mumbai’s financial capital using satellite images, according to the sole gunman to be captured alive. The commandos who stormed the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Mumbai said the militants had made a beeline for the building’s CCTV control room. … [More]
Source: Rhys Blakely in Mumbai, TimesOnline, December 9th, 2008
On a related note:
Emboldened by its first mission to the Moon, India is to take on a target closer to Earth: Google.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), which is based in Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of the sub-continent, will roll-out a rival to Google Earth, the hugely popular online satellite imagery service, by the end of the month.
The project, dubbed Bhuvan (Sanskrit for Earth), will allow users to zoom into areas as small as 10 metres wide, compared to the 200 metre wide zoom limit on Google Earth. … [More]
Source: Rhys Blakely in Mumbai, TimesOnline, November 19th, 2008
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2008, Issue No. 109
November 10, 2008
Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/
Support Secrecy News
COMMERCIAL SATELLITE IMAGERY SHEDS LIGHT HERE AND THERE
As the quality and availability of commercial satellite imagery continue to improve, the technology is adding a new dimension to public understanding of world events, while both enhancing and challenging national and global security.
“Last month, the most powerful commercial satellite in history sent its first pictures back to Earth, and another with similar capabilities is set for launch in mid-2009,” wrote Peter Eisler in USA Today last week. “The imagery provided by those and other commercial satellites has transformed global security in fundamental ways, forcing even the most powerful nations to hide facilities and activities that are visible not only to rival nations, but even to their own citizens.” See “Google Earth helps yet worries government,” November 7.
Iraqi insurgents, among other non-state actors, have also taken advantage of the new capabilities offered by satellite imagery. A 2006 dispatch prepared by the DNI Open Source Center (first reported by USA Today) documented “the use of Google Earth for tactical planning of rocket attacks against U.S. military targets in Iraq.” See “Iraqi Insurgency Group Utilizes Google Earth for Attack Planning,” July 19, 2006.
A newly disclosed GeoEye commercial satellite image of the site of a suspected Syrian nuclear facility at Al Kibar that was taken on November 23, 2007, some two months after it was bombed by Israel on September 6, 2007, shows rather rapid reconstruction of the destroyed facility.
“I’d say it confirms that the Syrians were in a really big hurry to get the site covered up,” said Allen Thomson, a former CIA analyst who has studied the case. “The previously available DigitalGlobe picture of 24 October 2007 showed only a mound of dirt. By a month later (the GeoEye pic), what appears to be a thick slab (you can see that it casts a shadow) was in place. And January 11 imagery shows the new building up and the roof in place.”
The new image was released last week courtesy of GeoEye / Space Imaging Middle East. It appears on page 1170 of an extensive open source compilation (large pdf) on the Israeli Strike in Syria prepared by Mr. Thomson.