News Roundup: Bahrain, Gaia, Liverpool

Three stories have been in the news or blogosphere over the Thanksgiving weekend. Here’s a summary of each:

  • Bahrain – The Financial Times reports that Google Earth has been the catalyst for a push for equality in the country of Bahrain. Earlier this year, the government tried to censor the use of Google Earth (it was quickly put back after the ensuing outcry) when it was discovered people were looking at the lavish palaces and yachts owned by the elite of the country. More importantly, the elite own a very large disproportionate part of the real estate of the small country while most of the population live in a cramped life style. The satellite and aerial photos show the facts. Now there appears to be a push for change.
  • Gaia – A programmer spent some time during the past few months hacking into the Google Earth databases so he could attempt to write an open source Google Earth application. First, this violates the terms of service of Google Earth (which specifically states you may not do this). Second, he didn’t understand that the data is protected with encryption for a reason. Google has licenses with the data providers which require they restrict its use only through their application. If anyone could access the data, Google would not be able to provide it for free (also, the aerial and satellite photography companies would not be able to earn a business). It cost Google over $50 Million to get these data licenses. When Google Earth’s Chief Technologist Michael Jones contacted the programmer this week, and gently explained the circumstances, he quickly removed the application from his servers. The programmer says: “Please note, that I did it on my own will, not being treated or something. Please do not consider me a victim. Michael explained the possible outcome of my work pretty good.”.
  • Liverpool – Some folks in Liverpool are disappointed their city isn’t as up to date as London in Google Earth. This has been picked up by the media at The Guardian and the BBC. Google points out: “‘We can only update things as soon as we have the data.” In other words, if Liverpool wants better data – all they need to do is hire an aerial photographer and provide the resulting data to Google. That’s what other cities, and even entire states, have done around the world. Several states in the US are now in high res because the states gave data to Google.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. Jimmy Lemon says

    as someone said on “Ogle Earth” regarding the Liverpool issue. The data is out there and people like Microsoft seem to have it and therefore have much better and up-to-date imagery for the UK. It’s a shame it doesn’t seem Google want to use them.

  2. It’s not just Liverpool that wants better coverage! I live on the island of Guernsey in the British Channel Islands (between UK and France) and I want better coverage of the island.
    I have spoken with Digimap Guernsey and they say they have offered their data to Google but Google turned them down stating that they (Google) had their own new data… so when is this going to appear in Google Earth?

  3. Jimmy, its quite possible that Microsoft either contracted to have that aerial photography taken, or paid for exclusive rights to it. If cities want the better imagery bad enough to give Google imagery for free, why should Google pay someone to do it for them? I’m sure Microsoft would prefer to get imagery for free, but they are trying to get an advantage over Google where they can.

  4. marilyn Terrell says

    Here’s a story on BoingBoing about Bahrain, with Google Earth photos of the palaces:

  5. I also can�t get it with Liverpool, there should not be any legal issues. Come on it�s not russia or Iran… So why not fix it and put the data up?

  6. The images of liverpool now show the city as it was quite a few years ago – google actually showed more up-to-date images (about 3 years old) about a year and a half ago and then ‘upgraded’ to these older images. I think the problem was that there was some cloud over parts of cheshire

  7. Google Earth used to have more up-to-date photos of my home town (Mondonville, Haute-Garonne, France) but recently they replaced images that were about two years old with images that are at least four years old (there is now a grassy field where you used to see a neighbourhood that was built in 2003). There is no difference in quality, the previous images did not have clouds or any such flaws.
    Even more curious, the images around Toulouse-Blagnac Airport have been updated. There is one Airbus A380 parked at the flight test parking area on the south side of the airport, which means the image is no earlier than early 2005. There are also more buildings. The previous photos were many years older (they had fewer buildings).
    BTW the A380 is the big fat four-engine plane sitting by itself.

  8. well done Baharain. i also love Liver pool.

  9. What is the correct word is it liverpool or liver pool?because both have a different meanings.and different people use it in different like liver pool and liverpool…

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.