Google Earth used by terrorists in India attacks

Ex Indian president warned easy availability of detailed maps of countries from services such as Google Earth could be misused by terrorists.

The terrorists that attacked various locations in south Mumbai last week used digital maps from Google Earth to learn their way around, according to officials investigating the attacks.

Investigations by the Mumbai police, including the interrogation of one nabbed terrorist, suggest that the terrorists were highly trained and used technologies such as satellite phones, and global positioning systems (GPS), according to police.

Google Earth has previously come in for criticism in India, including from the country's former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Kalam warned in a 2005 lecture that the easy availability online of detailed maps of countries from services such as Google Earth could be misused by terrorists.

A Google spokeswoman said in an e-mail Monday that Google Earth's imagery is already available through commercial and public sources. Google Earth has also been used by aid agencies for relief operations, which outweighs abusive uses, she said.

Indian security agencies have complained that Google Earth exposed Indian defense and other sensitive installations. Other nations, including China, have made similar complaints regarding military locations.

However the places attacked by terrorists last week did not come under the category of defense or sensitive installations. The information available to the terrorists on Google Earth about the locations they attacked is also available on printed tourism maps of Mumbai. The locations included two hotels, a restaurant, a residential complex and a railway station.

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John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
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