Google Earth Used for Good, Mostly

There was recently some news about a thief who made off with tons of lead from roofs which he then sold for a tidy profit. The reason he was in the news is that after he was caught he revealed he used Google Earth satellite photos to scout the target roofs with lead on them. With every great technology with many good uses, there are always going to be potential evil uses as well. Information Week does a great job of describing how people just haven’t yet come to terms with the notion that Google Earth, like the telephone and many other gadgets, will have its positive and negative uses as it continues to become a mainstream tool. The question is whether the tool’s positive uses outweigh the negative.
After the terrorist incident in Mumbai last November, it was revealed that Google Earth, phones, maps, digital cameras, GPS, duffel bags, etc. were used by the terrorists. People reacted by saying we should ban Google Earth or its data because evil people could use it. But, no one suggested the same for phones, digital cameras, etc. Even the Times of India reversed this position after a more careful examination of the facts. It is interesting how after a gadget becomes mainstream, it is less newsworthy to suggest the gadget be banned (as Stefan of OgleEarth points out after the Taliban posted a video showing how they really like the iPhone).
If you are sitting on the fence on this subject, I suggest you read through the nearly 2000 posts from this blog over the last 3.5 years showing the positive uses of Google Earth. Or, to make it easier just read some of these uses of Google Earth: Education, the Environment, Weather, disaster assistance, human rights violations, Tourism, Art, Science, and even saving mountains.

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. This comment is not only prompted by the uses of GE but by the huge amount of additional content recently added to GE and possible reasons for this.
    The business model for GE has always been a bit of a mystery, but a week ago Google announced the launch of a ‘behavioural advertising’ service – targeting ads at web users with particular profiles based on tracking visits to web pages, see
    So will GE with all its special interest layers be used as an extra dimension in this process, or even to generate special types of user profiles, and would that be good or bad?

  2. Street View in historic city centres:
    Whilst there are lots of excellent images of the historic parts of cities like Amsterdam and York, there are quite a lot of gaps where the Google cars obviously had difficulty in areas built long before the advent of the car, and where city authorities have pedestrianized streets or made traffic mazes to put off those who try to venture in by car. So is it time to mount the cameras on electric mobility scooters which go anywhere?

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