The obscured areas of Google Earth

While Google Earth offers imagery for the vast majority of the planet, there are a variety of places that are intentionally hidden for security or political reasons.

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This great article on summarizes many of these hidden areas. They include nuclear plants, air bases, important political facilities and other locations.

Google Earth began blurring or pixelating certain locations upon request. It started with governments. When the site first launched in 2005, images of the White House and the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC were blurred. (They’re not anymore, but the censored version has been replaced with outdated imagery.) Following suit, several countries have official contracts with Google to blur specific sites, among them India and Australia. Meanwhile, somewhat ingeniously, the government of Malaysia went the opposite route and realized that it would reveal its sensitive locations if they were visibly censored, so it chose to leave them unblurred.

The full article digs into more detail about the process and history of hiding imagery in Google Earth, and is well worth reading. Check it out here:

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


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  2. Sean O'Connor says:

    What they aren’t grasping is that most of the blurred overhead imagery comes from national geospatial services. The site isn’t blurred in Google Earth, it’s being blurred by the national providers who give the censored imagery to Google. In most cases there’s an easy solution: look in the historical imagery for an image provided by someone else. Street View is a different story, because Google itself is the imagery collector.

    Also, their comments about the Faeroes, Valencia City, and Chekhov are wrong. Those aren’t blurred images, you’re seeing the lower-resolution underlying imagery that the higher-resolution images don’t overlap. Look at Chekhov, for example. Hit the historical imagery button and what you see is a bunch of imagery tiles that don’t completely overlap, leaving a blank area where lower-resolution Landsat imagery ends up being displayed.

  3. Druid's Nectar says:

    …not quite every KFC logo is blurred…

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