Senator raises concern over Apple, Google mapping 'spy planes'

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) on Monday wrote a letter to the CEOs of Apple and Google expressing his concern with next-generation mapping technologies the two companies are employing, saying that the information gathered by highly-sensitive imaging equipment could lead to inadvertent privacy breaches and even aid in terrorism.

Although Sen. Schumer didn't use the phrase "spy planes" in his letter to Apple chief executive Tim Cook and Google CEO Larry Page, a press release issued on the senator's website regarding the matter did mention the term and described the two company's efforts as utilizing "military-grade" hardware.

The senator noted that, while services like Google Maps have in the past used satellite imagery, the new imaging technology allows for resolution of up to 4 inches. While Sen. Schumer is referring to high-resolution photographic equipment, at least one of the assets Apple acquired in developing the new iOS Maps app, a mapping company called C3 Technologies that was once part of Saab AB's defense arm, does use once-classified military targeting tech to achieve impressively realistic interactive maps.

?Barbequing or sunbathing in your backyard shouldn?t be a public event. People should be free from the worry of some high-tech peeping Tom technology violating one?s privacy when in your own home,? Sen. Schumer said. ?High resolution 3D mapping may have some very useful and practical applications, but the technology that is reported to be used by these companies brings a level of precision that has never before been utilized for public purposes. It raises important privacy questions and individuals have a right to know when their homes and communities are being mapped ? and whether highly detailed images of them and their homes will wind up published online. By using powerful cameras that can see through your windows and display details of sensitive security sites, Apple and Google will have access to private and sensitive images. It?s imperative that these companies disclose their plans for protecting privacy of both individuals and sensitive infrastructure, their publication intentions, and their plans for including public consent in the mapping process.?

Apple announced its new proprietary Maps app for iOS last week finally putting a cap on rumors that the company was ready to launch a product that combined the technology of over two years worth of mapping company acquisitions. Google beat the iPhone maker to the punch and revealed their own 3D mapping software upgrade earlier in June.

MapsApple's new Maps app will debut in iOS 6.


While the world's militaries rely on satellite imagery that is highly-restricted, Google's system gets by with digital overlays of photographic models taken from planes the company owns. Apple's "Flyover" tech uses a similar system that renders 3D recreations in real time.

The letter in full:
Dear Apple and Google,

I write today over the recent revelations that your companies are using highly sensitive photography equipment to take pictures of cities and towns across the country for your respective mapping products. These disclosures are potentially troubling, and I request that the privacy and security of Americans remain your top priority as you deploy new mapping and imaging capability.

It has been reported that some of these sensitive cameras can take pictures of objects up to four inches wide. I fear that this clarity may allow your mapping programs to take detailed pictures of people in intimate locations such as around a pool or in someone?s backyard. People on Long Island or in Buffalo have a reasonable expectation of privacy when they decide to have a barbeque on their back deck and would prefer to retain the option of deciding whether they should be photographed on their property. They should not fear that your planes will be overhead taking detailed pictures of their private events.

Detailed photographs could also provide criminals and terrorists with detailed views of sensitive utilities. On current online maps, many power lines, power sub stations, and reservoir access points are visible only at low resolutions. However, if highly detailed images become available, criminals could create more complete schematic maps of the power and water grids in the United States. With the vast amount of infrastructure across the country, it would be impossible to secure every location.

Therefore, I request that your mapping programs include three separate privacy and security provisions:

1) Provide notification to communities as to when you plan to conduct mapping

2) Automatically blur photos of individuals who are captured, and give property owners the right to opt-out of having the company map their homes

3) Put protocols in place with law enforcement and local municipalities to ensure that sensitive infrastructure details are blurred from published maps

I hope that you would be willing to work with my office on this very important issue and ensure the security and privacy of all Americans.
Apple and Google have yet to respond, though likely precautions may be akin to those seen in Google's Street View which blurs out license plates and other imagery deemed sensitive in nature.

?We must strike the proper balance between privacy and technology,? Sen. Schumer said. ?And while the use of this technology may well have very functional and important uses, we need to make sure that reasonable protections are in place to protect individuals and the public.?
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 71


    Schumer is such a tool.

  • Reply 2 of 71
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Time for the Geofencing Opt Out Bill
  • Reply 3 of 71
    stompystompy Posts: 331member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by verucabong View Post


    Schumer is such a tool.





    One of the biggest in the shed.

  • Reply 4 of 71
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member


    I'm also hearing concerns that we're thinking about banning 'fire' and 'electricity' for being able to create 'light'.


     


    Technically that's an invasion of privacy for those in the dark...

  • Reply 5 of 71
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,331member


    I thought it was a very cordial and common-sense letter. While I don't think it's going to be much of an issue, I can see some people getting very upset if they are caught nekid in there backyard. The use of hi-res satellite imagery could aide terrorist, but again, they could get that information elsewhere. Either way, it's good to think about these types of things and something that government should be thinking about.

  • Reply 6 of 71
    dagamer34dagamer34 Posts: 494member


    How is this any different from satellite images in Google Earth? You don't even know a plane is flying overhead when that happens! And this is pretty much for cities only, not secret government installations in the middle of nowhere.

  • Reply 7 of 71
    nizzardnizzard Posts: 29member


    But not so concerned about the government and law enforcement flying spy drones over the US?

  • Reply 8 of 71
    wurm5150wurm5150 Posts: 763member
    Are there even any human beings, or even animals showing on Apple's map?
  • Reply 9 of 71
    Should they give bald guys with really bad hair plugs the option to opt out? Chuck, Joe, what do you guys think?
  • Reply 10 of 71
    mechanicmechanic Posts: 805member
    Wow where do dorks like schuemer come from? The us military and CIA have had technology better than this for years and he's worried about pictures from air planes?
    Current weather satellites can read the name on a pack of smokes from 150 miles up and military satellites are 100 times more sofisticated than they are. The us government can keyhole or move them for surveillance any time they want to. There is not one square inch of this planet that has not been phtographed or filmed lol. Anyone who worries about map apps on phones with 3d vector graphics is soap boxing or grandstanding just to garner himself attention because of his own personal fear of becoming irrelevent
  • Reply 11 of 71
    Only the government can spy on you with satellites and UAVs. How dare private companies collect geo data for commercial use. Let's insinuate that they're aiding the terrorists.
  • Reply 12 of 71

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by NIZZARD View Post


    But not so concerned about the government and law enforcement flying spy drones over the US?



    +1


    Seriously, they should have bigger fish to fry. Illegal immigration, tax reform, insider trading, Afghanistan, our shite educational system and any other manner of things that actually matter.

  • Reply 13 of 71
    buckalecbuckalec Posts: 192member


    Schumer is gifted at spotting publicity opps - such bull - every NY station with give it high ranking in the news, play up the terrorism aspect

  • Reply 14 of 71
    madgoatmadgoat Posts: 21member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Mechanic View Post



    Wow where do dorks like schuemer come from? The us military and CIA have had technology better than this for years and he's worried about pictures from air planes?

    Current weather satellites can read the name on a pack of smokes from 150 miles up and military satellites are 100 times more sofisticated than they are. The us government can keyhole or move them for surveillance any time they want to. There is not one square inch of this planet that has not been phtographed or filmed lol. Anyone who worries about map apps on phones with 3d vector graphics is soap boxing or grandstanding just to garner himself attention because of his own personal fear of becoming irrelevent


    While the CIA may have detailed images like what Apple is offering, those images aren't available to every thief or terrorist. I don't want people to see the layout of my backyard or the path through the woods, or the snipper positions on local government offices.

  • Reply 15 of 71


    If you can walk by a building and take a pic...then you can fly a plane over a building and take a pic...cmon now.

  • Reply 16 of 71

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by MadGoat View Post


    While the CIA may have detailed images like what Apple is offering, those images aren't available to every thief or terrorist. I don't want people to see the layout of my backyard or the path through the woods, or the snipper positions on local government offices.



    If peeps were that interested in your back yard they'd rent a helicopter and fly over the stupid thing...puh-leeze.

  • Reply 17 of 71
    woodlinkwoodlink Posts: 198member


    I hear that wearing a tinfoil hat makes one invisible to such mapping initiatives.

  • Reply 18 of 71


    It’s been rumored that intelligence services can read newsprint from their satellites.


     


    Tell us when your employer is capturing images, Mr. Schumer, and Apple and Google will be happy to follow suit.


     


  • Reply 19 of 71
    orlandoorlando Posts: 601member


    "Military-grade spy plane" -- more likely they use a Cessna.


     


     


    I wonder why is he so concerned about Google and Apple being able to see things as small as 4 inches? image

  • Reply 20 of 71
    rot'napplerot'napple Posts: 1,839member


    Meanwhile, government approved Drones criss-cross the Nation!


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