Unblurred Google Satellite Images Is The Equivalent Of Yelling Fire?

from the say-what-now? dept

Earlier this month, we wrote about how a politician in California, Assemblyman Joel Anderson, was looking to force Google and other providers of online mapping/satellite offerings to blur images of schools, churches and government buildings. News.com ran an interview with Anderson, where he attempts to defend his proposed legislation as a matter of public safety. He claims that there is no good reason why anyone would need to clearly see these buildings online, and that it can only be used for bad purposes:
Who wants to know that level of detail? Bad people do.
Apparently, Anderson is the final determiner of what good people do and what bad people do with online maps. Then, when pushed on the fact that forcing companies to blur images of public locations might not pass constitutional muster, Anderson claimed that it was the equivalent of yelling fire:
But since when do you have a First Amendment right to yell fire? This falls under the same category.
I'm curious how that's anywhere near the same category. One is deceiving a bunch of people with an alarming false statement, where the resulting response can put people in danger -- and the other is an accurate representation of a building. Am I missing something?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Claes, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 10:33am

    Surely you have the right to yell fire if these is a fire...

     

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    random, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 10:38am

    so what if you have satellite images of a public building on fire then is it ok to yell fire? or....

     

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    chris (profile), Mar 13th, 2009 @ 10:41am

    wtf will blurring help?

    if i was a terrorist with a bomb that was burning a hole in my pocket, wouldn't it be super easy for me to find a good target by pulling up the google map for where i was standing and heading towards the nearest blurred out space?

    why not make a neon sign that says "come blow this place up!"??

    militaries often leave secret facilities off of maps, so the easiest way to locate the interesting places on a military installation is to walk around and see what's not on the map.

     

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    Shutter Bug, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 10:46am

    Chicken Little Syndrome

    This is same mentality that attempts to stop individuals from taking pictures, in public, of buildings, structures, etc. They have not yet adequately justified their paranoia.

     

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    Anonymous Poster, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 10:48am

    This is a giant crock of bullshit, and Anderson should be ashamed of himself for even thinking like this for a second.

    Information, by itself, is not good or evil. And the pictures of these buildings are just information.

    You want to stop the information from being used for evil? Don't stop the flow of information, stop people from being evil.

     

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    Chief Petty Officer Obvious, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 10:48am

    You kind of have a point

    I agree, blurring doesn't help, which isn't really the point. The point is that the exterior of those buildings exist in the public domain, so they can be photographed all you like. The matter of distance shouldn't be a stipulation, public is public.

    Military sites are completely different. They are military domain, not public domain. In addressing your point, yes a terrorist could look at the blurred military installation and say, "I want to go there," for all the good it would do them. Civilians have attempted to do the same thing w/the blurred "area 51" and Vandenburg locations, and they don't get very far.

     

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    Shawn, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 10:52am

    thems "fight'en words" . . . LOL

    This guy seems a little mixed up, you do have a constitutional right to yell "fire"? What you dont have the right to do is recklessly endanger others by yelling it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 10:53am

    A note to the bad guys; "If something is blurred then it's a target."

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 11:13am

    Am I missing something?

    No, you're not missing something. Mr. Anderson is missing something, like common sense. That is surgically removed right after you say something like "I wish to run for elected office." It's replaced with a blind greed gland.

     

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    another mike, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 11:21am

    So now, instead of needing a satellite imagery analyst to identify high-value targets, just aim for the blurry spots.

    Unless the building itself is blurry, there's no reason for the pictures to be blurry.

     

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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Mar 13th, 2009 @ 11:26am

    Re: Fire in a Crowded Theatre

    Not necessarily... See Fire in a Crowded Theater.

    If you were aware of a fire, but shouted “Fire!” in a sarcastic way to not only avoid being believed, but also to pre-emptively reduce the credibility of any subsequent discoverers of the fire, then you would still be culpable for endangerment despite being literally truthful.

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Mar 13th, 2009 @ 11:30am

    Jeebus

    You do have the right to yell 'fire' in a crowded theater, *if there is an actual fire!*

    Unless the satellite picture is of a fictional building, I fail to see the connection.

    Heck, if we're worried about real dangers, how about GPS systems that direct people to take washed-out bridges? That's at least in the ballpark of the analogy.

     

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    David Canton, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 11:40am

    blurred images

    Doesn't blurring images create a Streisand effect? The "bad guys" just look for blurred images then use other means to identify what is hidden.

     

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    Pedro Valle Javier, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 11:42am

    Politicians need more stuff to do...

    This seems like an example of a politician looking for a "cause" or "issue" where there are none simply for political purposes. Unless he really is as stupid as his idea.

    And, somebody, please, please, PLEASE think of the children!

    ;P

     

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    Guy One, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 11:43am

    i am going to build a blurry house so Google cant get a picture of it.... But then googles blurring technology might be able to unblurr my house making it visible to EVERYONE.


    i got to go blur some more of my stuff now

     

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    Clueless, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 11:44am

    Don't schools these days have some sort of security?
    Think about it.. Censorship of any form should not be tolerated! Will ill-quipped politicians in the future moan about hi res images of banks, airports, or other governmental buildings from being blocked too? Then the only thing you'll be able to see is your neighbor's backyard..

    Come on goober, get with the 21st century... If you can't protect your schools or your public's trust, don't blame Google...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 11:45am

    Wouldn't it be ironic

     

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    sam, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 11:52am

    Re: Jeebus

    "Heck, if we're worried about real dangers, how about GPS systems that direct people to take washed-out bridges? That's at least in the ballpark of the analogy."

    No,

    People that drive over washed out bridges because a GPS told them to need to be culled out of society any way. They are diluting the gene pool.

     

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    David Fair, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 11:54am

    Bad news

    I work in IT for the Maintenance department at a large school system in MD. We use Google Maps to plot out snow-plowing plans, route truck, determine greenspace square footage, and a lot of other necessary work. Blurring those images wouldn't help us at all. :(

     

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    technically, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 11:57am

    Yelling fire is up to the establishement

    Not being allowed to yell "fire" (when there is no fire) is up to the rules of that particular establishment. Basically, if I own a movie theater, it's up to me to set the rule "you cannot yell fire if there is no fire" but if I don't specify that, then my customers are allowed to yell "fire!"

    Also, look at Disneyworld/land. You can get kicked out just for sitting around looking sad all day. But that's up to them to set those rules. You might not be doing anything "wrong" but if that establishment does not want unhappy people, then by all means they are free to kick out who they please. (with exceptions of racism/sexism/sexual preference of course)

    Also, this politician is an idiot.

     

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  21.  
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    Some IT Guy, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 11:59am

    California Sucks

    Who elects these politicians in California? I mean seriously come on!

    Pennsylvania has it's share of sucky politicians but it pales in comparison to California!

     

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    GeneralEmergency (profile), Mar 13th, 2009 @ 12:00pm

    Oh here's a NOVEL IDEA...

    When you have an unreasonable, uncivilized sworn enemy out there in the world who wants you dead for what-ever stupid simian reason their little whiskered heads can dream up, wade out there and get them first.

    Stop trying to secure every last damn thing and place and just eliminate the problem at the source.

    People who DO NOT recognize the rights of others to lead peaceful lives have not earned that right for themselves.

     

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  23.  
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    Ray, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 12:00pm

    More post 9/11 boogeyman paranoia. If there isn't a real threat out ther lets invent one. Fact is as others have pointed out, blurring only serves to clarify a target if someone is out looking for targets.

    Following the Assemblyman's reasoning shouldn't we also blur out any public building's address from the phone book? After all terrorists could use that information to actually find their way to the location!

     

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    ohPlease, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 12:01pm

    Re:

    Your comment is a crock of bullsh*t...saying that we should just *stop* people from being evil is the equivalent of me wishing on fairy dust to make all bad people disappear. Regardless of what you think about the accessibility of satellite imagery, statements like that are nonsense.

     

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  25.  
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    eh, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 12:01pm

    Re: Re: Fire in a Crowded Theatre

    Yelling "fire" in a theater is not always against the rules/law. It's up to whatever the rules are for that theater. Just like Disneyland/world kicking out those Emo/Goth kids a few years ago for not looking happy and sitting in the same spot all day.

     

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    jonny bond, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 12:04pm

    Wow you learn something new every day crying fire in a crowded theater is the modern day equivalent of crying wolf. Assemblyman Joel Anderson is a blithering buffoon if he thinks a parent moving to a new state might not get some benefit from being able to see the route distance from a new home to their childrens school.

     

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    It's up for debate., Mar 13th, 2009 @ 12:07pm

    Re: Re:

    either they were proving a point that preventing evil is impossible, hence the correlation between stopping info from spreading and stopping evil from spreading.

    Or, they have a deeper meaning in their statement such as what Ron Paul mentioned back in the republican primaries. Basically, we should stop trying to fight against terrorism by taking away our freedoms and information, but instead, understand what caused the terrorism. Why were we attacked on 9/11, why would any country be so upset that they would kill themselves (and thousands of our innocent civilians) to make a point? We should go back to the root of the problem and solve it there. And in America's case, it is proven that we are the root of our own problems.

    So, that statement isn't so crazy after all.

     

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  28.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased), Mar 13th, 2009 @ 12:09pm

    Take the bomb

    So when Jack Bauer has a bomb that is going to explode he is going to say, "Look! There is an empty lot according to Google satellite. Take the bomb there...Oh crap, I just blew up a school full of kids!"

    Joking aside. I work for a municipal owned electric utility. The other day I was talking on the phone with a property owner about some work that the utility needed to do. With the help of Google's satellite and Streetview I was able to discuss certain landscaping issues we would have without having to actually meet her at the site, eliminating the need to drive the company car out to talk and saving time. I have done this numerous times with the public school system as well. Sure we have a GIS system with a flyover overlay image but the Google tools are so much better (and cheaper). Assemblyman Anderson, am I a bad person?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 12:09pm

    Re: Re:

    How about "stop people from acting evil," or "body-check people about to perform evil actions"? it's the same idea, and requires less fairy dust. The point is that you stop the people who are doing the bad things, not hamper the information itself.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 12:14pm

    Re:

    Shhh! You'll give them (politicians or terrorists, take your pick) ideas!

     

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    dev, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 12:15pm

    Re:

    no, if the building is on fire then you can unblur it. Wait, no you can't do that either.

     

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    mobiGeek, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 12:16pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    So how exactly do you detect people who are about to "act evil"? How do you then prevent that act?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 12:16pm

    Re: Take the bomb

    Assemblyman Anderson, am I a bad person?

    By definition. That was really the only thing he was clear on. The rest was all fuzzy.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 12:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I'm pretty sure that's at least part of what we pay the police and military for, isn't it? "Body-check" was one suggestion I made, but I could give you more.

     

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    Jesse, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 12:20pm

    "so what if you have satellite images of a public building on fire then is it ok to yell fire? or...."

    No because the Australian Government owns the copyright to those images.

     

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  36.  
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    Fabio Prudente, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 12:24pm

    Ignorance is more dangerous

    If knowledge may be harmful, ignorance is much more dangerous!

     

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    VanCardboardbox, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 12:25pm

    You know who is really to blame?

    Why blame poor innocent Google for the existence of targets when the blame should be laid at the feet of the traitors responsible: architects. So long as those diabolical bastards continue to design buildings that reflect light none of us are safe.

    If a terrorist were to walk down my street he would be able to see every single building in full colour at a scale of 1:1. Scary, no?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 12:27pm

    Re:

    No. The blurred ones are thereby labeled as being the best targets for a fire.

     

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    are u serious?, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 12:36pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    let's look at America. We invaded Iraq to stop Saddam from killing his own people. But it is fact that we put him in power to fight and win against Iran, we gave him those weapons which he ended up using against his people. Now we have a problem with Iran because we backed their opponents and now Iran hates us because their country is split in 2.

    Let's look at the middle east as a whole. We have US Military bases on their home/holy land. Why? because we want to stop them from attacking us here, well, that's pretty dumb, because we are pissing them off so much that they want to attack us here.

    So, to stop "evil" is to stop ourselves from pissing them off. Not necessarily doing everything they ask, but hey, when they say they are pissed off about us building our own base on their "holy land" then we sure as hell better back off because nothing pisses off people more than taking a dump on the things they consider sacred.

    How's that suggestion for stopping evil?

    Maybe if politicians started being more honest about why people are getting so pissed off that they would blow themselves up to destroy our landmarks then we can stop some evil by spreading a little honesty and love. But no, politicians generally don't see past their brown noses and black souls.

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 12:43pm

    Re: Re: Re: Fire in a Crowded Theatre

    I like to yell "MOVIE" in a crowded firehouse.

     

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    jacatro, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 12:49pm

    Im sure he's afraid of being seen- or something-attempts at demonizing technology are so 2 hours ago-

     

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  42.  
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    Kevin C., Mar 13th, 2009 @ 12:50pm

    "We invaded Iraq to stop Saddam from killing his own people"
    er, no we didn't. We invaded iraq because Bush made up the existence of WMD's. I guess had hadn't reached his 'needlessly killed' quota.
    KevinC

     

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  43.  
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    Weird Harold, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 1:01pm

    FIRE!

    next.

     

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    sajjon, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 1:01pm

    The bad guys have been blowing up buildings/structures since the creation of explosives....this practice precedes Google maps by at least a few years ASSemblyman.

     

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    Joemama, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 1:28pm

    It's EXACTLY like yelling fire...

    I think this idiot politician has a correct analogy, but not the way he thinks. After all, isn't trying to scare people unnecessarily by saying we need to blur satellite images or we might all die tantamount to yelling "fire" in a crowded theater?

    I'm getting more than a little tired of the politics of panic. It's time to put the shoe on the other foot. If you continue to propose laws inhibiting our freedoms, not to mention ourpocketboks, you WILL lose your job.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 1:36pm

    Re: You know who is really to blame?

    JAJAJAJAJAJAJAAJAJAJA

    :-)

     

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    scott, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 1:48pm

    I look at schools my kids don't attend all the time on google - to see where to park when I go to things like track meets, etc. Very handy.

     

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  48.  
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    interval, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 1:53pm

    Re: wtf will blurring help?

    If you were a "terrorist" (or whatever the plume-du-jur is) with a real, live, bomb to throw, blurring out a building image in google maps isn't going to slow you down. Let not forget that both 9/11/01 & the Oklahoma City travesty happened before google maps was a gleam in Brin & Page's eyes.

     

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  49.  
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    Dan L, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 2:05pm

    Security through Obscurity...

    ... it is good enough for most credit card companies.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 2:38pm

    Re: wtf will blurring help?

    If you were a terrorist with a bomb burning a hole in your pocket you would just go to some random place with lots of people and set it off. Whether it is on Google Maps or not is irrelevant. This is a phantom issue drummed up by a publicity-hungry politician. For him to make this utterly moronic suggestion is tantamount to gratuitously shouting "fire" in a crowded theater. No gain vs. lots of loss to society.

    Grow up and stop paying attention to nitwits.

     

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    Dan, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 2:41pm

    What Anderson is in fact yelling is that "I am an idiot". I think anyone can find a school or public building by looking in the local phone book or numerous other references, to think a determined terrorist would be deterred by a blurred Google map is pure lunacy.

     

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    smokey, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 3:05pm

    blurry pictures

    someone yell fire? get me homeland security STAT, probly dem dam muzzys again, GOD what would PATTON do right now?!!!

     

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    brwyatt, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 3:12pm

    Or...

    You know what would be BETTER than using Google maps for selecting targets? Building your own UAV. Hell, there are entire websites just for building DIY drones... they even have open source software and mainboards for them. Hell, I think there is a group that sells mini MQ-1 Predator "clones" that can, in fact, carry 0.4lbs of imaging equipment and can use programable waypoints, hold orbital paterns all on their own... Can even fly for several hours at a time too. Oh, and are DIRT CHEAP. just a couple grand... that's NOTHING for even the smallest terrorist group!

    And we think blurring buidings makes them safer? Rofl... politicians make me laugh.

     

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    Adam Kalsey, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 3:43pm

    Legitimate uses

    As a school sports official I look up Google satellite views of schools several times a week. It's a helpful way to locate the field and the nearest parking area.

    I'm guilty of conspiracy, too. I often mark the spot on the map where I'm going to be and send it to other officials so they can meet me there.

     

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    John Duncan Yoyo, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 4:32pm

    Re:

    Yeah but this is no fire. It is more like screaming Friar in a crowded nunnery.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 5:02pm

    And you wonder why our state is on the verge of bankruptcy with geniuses like this guy.

     

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    Barry, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 7:07pm

    Re:

    >>I look at schools my kids don't attend all the time on google - to see where to park when I go to things like track meets, etc. Very handy.


    Have to agree here. This guy obviously doesn't have kids and does not use technology.

    All the time for soccer games and things I look up the location of where a game is and where the field is in relation to where we'll be parking.

    Finding directions though is a 'bad thing' though I guess. I should go turn my self in I suppose.

     

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    Superdude, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 9:16pm

    I know when I have the constitutional right to yell fire, when there is a fire or other emergency. Infact we have always had that right. The thing with not yelling fire really means that you will be held accountable if someone gets hurt (physically) by what your saying, not what your saying. This guy needs to rub two brain cells together, maybe the spark he gets will make him realize that.

     

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    Tetsubo (profile), Mar 14th, 2009 @ 1:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    First, ask yourself the question: Is the person brown? If yes, they might be Evil. Once identified, arrest and waterboarding are soon to follow.

    I have yet to see *any* evidence that any terrorist has ever actually used a picture taken in public during an attack. But it sure does add some flair to the security theater.

     

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    J.Lee, Mar 14th, 2009 @ 8:04am

    I won't live there any longer

    Only in California would they elect Forrest Gump.

     

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    Suresh, Mar 14th, 2009 @ 8:30am

    ..

    First, ask yourself the question: Is the person brown? If yes, they might be Evil. Once identified, arrest and waterboarding are soon to follow..

     

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    Gene Cavanaugh, Mar 14th, 2009 @ 2:13pm

    Blurring satellite images

    Unless the law has changed dramatically since I passed the bar, you are dead right, Michael. Creating an immediate, clearly-defined threat to the public (yelling "fire" in a crowded place) is not the same thing by any stretch of the imagination.
    We could go a step further and argue that blurring images would impede emergency workers who need the information; while a terrorist can be depended on to visit a target site before attacking, and therefore wouldn't care one way or the other.

     

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  63.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2009 @ 5:37pm

    Re: California Sucks

    I hate to say it, but, unfortunately, Californians elect California politicians. I mean, I'd like to blame it on the guys from Oregon or Arizona or somewhere, but it's us, and I'm ashamed.

    Go to any big metropolitan area in CA and just observe people, you'll quickly get an idea as to why we elect such messed up people to our public offices.

     

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  64.  
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    Stephen Samuel, Mar 15th, 2009 @ 11:03am

    Is this man Clinically paranoid?

    I mean, really: Has this man seen a mental health professional in the last few months?

     

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  65.  
    identicon
    Cyber-CIP, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 7:35pm

    This article

    And, will this proposed statute apply to International hosts and content stores:

    - Googlemaps (of-USA) w/ server hosted in Mumbai ?
    - Googlemaps server (of-USA) w/ hosted in Islamabad?
    - Googlemaps server hosted in Tehran?
    - Googlemaps server with imagery provided by satellites from foreign countries?

    If you have read this far, you get my point :-)
    See http://official-new.com/earth/ for more information.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  66.  
    identicon
    wat, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 7:37am

    Google Earth already obstructs detail from many sensitive areas. A good portion of Washington D.C. has the roofs of buildings "whited out" and take a look at the strange patterns overlayed on sensitive areas of Isreal, such as the entire city of Dimonia, where their reactor research is conducted. Zoom in, and you see a digitized chainlink pattern. I am sure there are more examples, but these are two that stand out. Google earth does have government intelligence connections. This is not tinfoil hat stuff, but rather the actual acknowledged history of google earth.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  67.  
    identicon
    James, Mar 22nd, 2009 @ 5:57pm

    "Fire!"

    I'm not sure I follow the analogy, it's so strained. The stereotypical yelling of "Fire!" in a theater is usually stated with the premise that the theater is NOT burning, but the resulting panic and stampede for the exits causes actual damage and injury.

    Who's yelling Fire here? What's the consequent damage? I don't agree with the politician at all. I love using Google Earth to wander the globe as a virtual tourist, and I don't want to see its capabilities diminished, except as necessary for reasons of public security. Much as I disagree, however, he apparently believes honestly that there is a public danger here. That's different from the theater scenario.

    (Note to self: If I'm ever in a theater that actually is on fire, be sure to say, "Fire! No, really. Actual FIRE! This is not a discussion on the limits of free speech. FIRE!!!!!!!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  68.  
    identicon
    atheistlibertariancriminalasshole, Aug 15th, 2009 @ 10:48am

    yelling fire in a theater doesn't endanger anyone. wait just listen, i'm not trolling. the idea is that if you inspire panic then you've endangered people. this may be true if you've inspired panic in a herd of cattle or buffalo that then stampedes toward people. but people have the ability and therefore the responsibility to react to danger w/o panicking. theaters have fire exits and max occupancy approved by the f.d. if there is a fire in the theater [or a fictitious threat of fire] then every one should be able to leave safely if they don't panic. thing is, people want to be able to panic and trample their fellow theater goers to death w/o taking any responsibility for their own actions. and that's where we get the idea that the death's of the trampled are somehow the fault of the person yelling fire instead of the fault of the panicking sub-humans who stomped all over them while in such a rush to secure there own escape that they disregarded any sense of concern or compassion for their fellows. the whole thing is based in the kind of mind set which accepts the idea of controlling the mind of another; 'he made them panic' instead of an acceptance of personal responsibility for one's own behavior; 'i chose to panic'. one of the most freeing realizations a person can make in life is that you can only control yourself and therefore you cannot be responsible for the behavior of anyone else. the corollary, of course, is that no one can control you and no one else but you is to blame if you choose to act like a frightened buffalo and trample your fellow moviegoer to death.
    that said, laws that require the editing of photos of things you can see walking down the street are censorship [and non effective anyway], and a guy who yells fire in a theater is a giant dickhead.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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