Google and Apple Partner to Bring Spy Aircraft
Software giants will use military-grade cameras to take powerful satellite images
By VANESSA ALLEN | MAIL ONLINE | JUNE 10, 2012
Spy planes able to photograph sunbathers in their back gardens are being deployed by Google and Apple.
The U.S. technology giants are racing to produce aerial maps so detailed they can show up objects just four inches wide.
But campaigners say the technology is a sinister development that brings the surveillance society a step closer.
Google admits it has already sent planes over cities while Apple has acquired a firm using spy-in-the-sky technology that has been tested on at least 20 locations, including London.
Apple’s military-grade cameras are understood to be so powerful they could potentially see into homes through skylights and windows. The technology is similar to that used by intelligence agencies in identifying terrorist targets in Afghanistan.
Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, warned that privacy risked being sacrificed in a commercial ‘race to the bottom’.
‘The next generation of maps is taking us over the garden fence,’ he warned. ‘You won’t be able to sunbathe in your garden without worrying about an Apple or Google plane buzzing overhead taking pictures.’
He said householders should be asked for their consent before images of their homes go online. Apple is expected to unveil its new mapping applications for its iPhone and other devices today – along with privacy safeguards. Its 3D maps will reportedly show for the first time the sides of tall buildings, such as the Big Ben clock tower.
Google expects by the end of the year to have 3D coverage of towns and cities with a combined population of 300million. It has not revealed any locations so far.
Current 3D mapping technology relies on aerial images taken at a much lower resolution than the technology Apple is thought to be using. This means that when users ‘zoom in’, details tend to be lost because of the poor image quality.
Google ran into trouble when it emerged that its Street View cars, which gathered ground-level panoramic photographs for Google Maps, had also harvested personal data from household wifi networks.