Pentagon Did NOT Ban Google Earth

The Pentagon did NOT ban Google Earth! This is just to clarify the many erroneous news and blog reports which started circulating yesterday. The stories were based on an AP report that came out which actually involved Google’s Street View photos.
The story is kind of amusing. As most of you know, Google has been driving cars around with special video cameras which take panoramic photos which are then placed in Google Maps. The intent is to help you get a look at places and get a feel for your surroundings before you go. The service is called Street View and was first released last May.
One of the Google drivers of a Street View car drove up to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX and asked for permission to go on the base to do his work – and the request was granted. Then, the photos appeared in Street View until some military personnel noticed and realized it probably isn’t a good idea to have photos of a military base shared with the world. The photos could show locations of guards, barricades, and other sensitive information. The Pentagon contacted Google and requested they take the photos down, which Google did immediately within 24 hours. Google also said it was against their policy for their drivers to go to restricted areas. The Pentagon sent a message to all bases telling them to not allow such crews with big cameras on the top to drive all over the base taking pictures. Duh.

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Footnote: I was actually interviewed by BBC Radio last night on the “Pentagon ban” story. I found out it actually aired the next morning. Also, I was interviewed on 13-March on Federal News Radio about the incident – listen to the interview here (mp3).

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.


  1. Ron Capek says:

    Okay. Maybe I’m just slow today.
    But how is “not being allowed” different from “banned”?

  2. Haha, I saw this story too. Same response…Duh!

  3. Not available means: US government kick our ass and we had to remove the images….

  4. They’re trying really hard in the markets, aren’t they though?
    In re to Ron — there was no formal ‘ban’ by anyone. In fact, it’s Google that is complying with the government’s request not to distribute imagery the government deems as sensative.
    Thus, the term ‘ban’ is highly inappropriate and in the context of the situation, defammatory.

  5. Daniel,
    Whether you complied or not, Google crews are not allowed on bases.
    “Banned” doesn’t have to be an official decree (Though a message to all bases does make it official).
    You’re choosing one synonym over another. And the negative connotation of one over the other is your own.

  6. Rob Vanderkam says:

    So the Pentagon didn’t ban it – they just didn’t allow it? Means the same thing. Why try to make a distinction?

  7. scott s. says:

    I think the point is that it concerns Google Maps, not Google Earth, rather than the usage of “banned”.

  8. Is great news to hear that Google Earth is NOT banned

  9. Ron,
    “Google crews are not allowed on bases.”
    Evidentally they were — and thus Google complied with the request to take down the imagery that they were permitted to collect.
    Post fact, sure — I’d hope the Pentagon and the bases staff all acknowledge what should or shouldn’t be permitted on base. Am I not correct in this logic?
    I suppose Google could have contested the request and challenged the entire premiss — but why do that when it’s an obvious no-brainer?
    I think people are very quick to cast judgments on certain companies in a very wrong and misguided direction, when in fact the words are all layed-out in front so that people can determine where perhaps this ‘breakdown’ in the process had occured.

  10. Daniel,
    After the incident where Google photographed restricted areas, the Pentagon sent a message saying that Google crews are not allowed on bases, as it said in Frank Taylor’s blog.
    So they are either “not allowed” or “banned”. Your choice.

  11. “Google Ban google street view” funny stuff

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