‘Google Maps ex­poses 40% of mil­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties’

The Korea Times - - BUSINESS - By Jun Ji-hye [email protected]­re­atimes.co.kr

About 40 per­cent of sen­si­tive mil­i­tary sites in South Korea have been fully ex­posed to the gen­eral pub­lic through Google Maps’ satel­lite mode, ac­cord­ing to rul­ing Demo­cratic Party of Korea law­maker Park Kwang-on, Sun­day.

The sec­ond-term law­maker claimed reg­u­la­tions need to be es­tab­lished to ban for­eign com­pa­nies from in­dis­crim­i­nately dis­tribut­ing in­for­ma­tion that poses a threat to na­tional se­cu­rity.

Google’s high-res­o­lu­tion satel­lite im­ages cur­rently ex­pose lo­ca­tions of the Repub­lic of Korea Air Force’s 11th Fighter Wing base, which holds the na­tion’s main aerial force of F-15Ks, and the 8th Fighter Wing base to which do­mes­ti­cally pro­duced ad­vanced fighter jets have been de­ployed.

Rep. Park said he con­firmed their ex­po­sure af­ter re­ceiv­ing ma­te­ri­als from the Min­istry of Na­tional De­fense, not­ing that he would not dis­close the ex­act num­ber of the na­tion’s mil­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties as the in­for­ma­tion is clas­si­fied.

Google Maps has faced con­sis­tent con­tro­versy over its satel­lite im­ages of sen­si­tive mil­i­tary sites here since the 2000s, but has never taken any ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sures, cit­ing its “global stan­dards,” ac­cord­ing to Park.

Na­tional se­cu­rity is re­garded as one of the most im­por­tant is­sues here as the two Koreas are still tech­ni­cally at war.

The In­for­ma­tion Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Net­work Act pro­hibits the leak­ing of state se­crets on­line. Lo­ca­tions of mil­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties are con­sid­ered state se­crets.

But the satel­lite view on Google Maps of­fers a bird’s-eye view of those fa­cil­i­ties in­clud­ing their lat­i­tude and lon­gi­tude in­for­ma­tion as well as streets near the fa­cil­i­ties, Park said.

This is in con­trast to do­mes­tic IT com­pany Naver’s method which pro­vides map­ping ser­vices but ob­scures mil­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties.

Rep. Park said there is no way for now to re­strain Google’s ex­po­sure of the na­tion’s mil­i­tary se­crets as the global IT gi­ant, which keeps its servers abroad, is not sub­ject to do­mes­tic laws.

The law­maker noted that Google has cited its global stan­dards when ex­plain­ing its de­ci­sion not to com­ply with the Korean govern­ment’s re­quest to cen­sor its satel­lite im­ages of sen­si­tive mil­i­tary sites. How­ever, the com­pany did cen­sor the satel­lite im­ages of France’s Or­ange-Car­i­tat Air Base and other over­seas se­cu­rity fa­cil­i­ties.

“If Google has re­ceived treat­ment equal to that of Korean com­pa­nies, it is a mat­ter of com­mon sense that Google needs to per­form the same du­ties as those of Korean firms,” Park said.

Cour­tesy of Rep. Park Kwang-on

Google Maps’ satel­lite im­agery, left, shows one of the na­tion’s mil­i­tary bases that has been blurred by Rep. Park Kwang-on’s of­fice, while the im­age for the same lo­ca­tion, right, is cen­sored in Naver’s map­ping ser­vice.

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