Belgium is suing Google for not blurring photos of military sites

28 Sep 2018

Google sign. Image: VDB Photos/Shutterstock

Belgium clashes with Google over a request to blur satellite images of military bases.

The Belgian defence ministry is taking action against Google for not complying with its requests to blur satellite depictions of military sites. According to Reuters, a spokesperson for the ministry said it would “sue Google”.

The ministry said it asked the internet giant to obscure satellite images of sites such as nuclear power stations and military bases from its mapping services.

Google responds

Belgium’s spokesperson for Google said: “It’s a shame the Belgium department of defence have decided to take this decision.” They added that the search giant had been working with the government in the country for more than two years, making changes to maps “where asked and legal”.

Belgium is far from the first country to butt heads with the company over its mapping services such as Street View, Google Maps and Google Earth. Locations linked to the military in France and the Netherlands have been blurred out, while in India, government officials said that Maps and Street View were used to coordinate terrorist attacks. The government has still not approved the use of Street View in the country. Many people think that the services could be used by people to compromise security. In 2016, Taiwanese officials asked the company to blur out images of military buildings on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, when tensions mounted over China’s territorial claims to the region.

In 2011, a German court ruled that Street View was legal after a woman in the country sued the company, stating that she feared images of her house and family would appear on the internet.

Deutsche Welle reported: “The court ruled that it is legal to take photographs from street level, rejecting her argument that Google was trying to take unauthorised pictures. Part of her argument rested on the fact that Google used cameras mounted at three metres (9.84ft) high, which could see over her two-metre-high hedge.

“However, the court did not find this argument convincing, given that the photographs were taken from the street and not the sidewalk. Furthermore, because Google automatically blurs faces and licence plates, and did allow Germans to opt out of the service to have their house obfuscated as well, the court did not find any potential violations.”

Google sign. Image: VDB Photos/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects