Blurred Out: 51 Things You Aren't Allowed to See on Google Maps
Depending on which feature you use, Google Maps offers a satellite view or a street-level view of tons of locations around the world. You can look up landmarks like the Pyramids of Egypt or the Great Wall of China, as well as more personal places, like your ex’s house. But for all of the places that Google Maps allows you to see, there are plenty of places that are off-limits. Whether it’s due to government restrictions, personal-privacy lawsuits or mistakes, Google Maps has slapped a "Prohibited" sign on the following 51 places.
Government and Military Sites
Nuclear Stations, Energy-Generation Sites and Reserves
- The White House: Google Maps' images of the White House show a digitally erased version of the roof in order to obscure the air-defense and security assets that are in place.
- The U.S. Capitol: The U.S. Capitol has been fuzzy ever since Google Maps launched. Current versions of Google Maps and Google Earth show these sites uncensored, though with old pictures.
- Vice President's House: The Vice President's digs at Number One Observatory Circle are obscured through pixelation in Google Earth and Google Maps at the behest of the U.S. government. However, high-resolution photos and aerial surveys of the property are readily available on other Web sites.
- Soesterberg Air Base, in the Netherlands: This Dutch air-force base and former F-15 base for the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War can't be seen via Google Maps.
- PAVE PAWS in Cape Cod, Mass.: PAVE PAWS is the U.S. Air Force Space Command’s radar system for missile warning and space surveillance. There are two other installations besides the one in Cape Cod.
- Shatt-Al-Arab Hotel in Basra, Iraq: This site was possibly censored after it was reported that terrorists who attacked the British at the hotel used aerial footage displayed by Google Earth to target their attacks.
- Leeuwarden, Netherlands: This Dutch city is one of the main operating bases of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, part of NATO's Joint Command Centre and one of three Joint Sub-Regional Commands of Allied Forces Northern Europe. Leeuwarden is also one of two regional headquarters of Allied Command Europe, headed by the Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
- Reims Air Base in France: This lone building on Reims Air Base in France is blurred out.
- Novi Sad: This military base in Serbia is off-limits.
- Kamp van Zeist: Kamp van Zeist is a former U.S. Air Force base that was temporarily declared sovereign territory of the U.K. in 2000 in order to allow the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial to take place.
- NATO C3 Agency: Located in Brussels, Belgium, the C3 Agency supports NATO through scientific support and funded acquisition of C4ISR (Consultation, Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) capabilities.
- New American Embassy Location: This site is under construction.
- NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen : This is the site of the main operating of NATO's Airborne Early Warning Control Force's E-3A Component, which provides an early-warning radar system to enhance NATO's air- defense capabilities. The base includes 17 E-3A aircraft used for air surveillance and air-operations-communications support. Crews from 14 nations, including Spain, Turkey and the U.S., power the aircraft.
- Ramstein Air Base in Germany: Ramstein Air Base figures prominently in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. It's the home of the 86th Airlift Wing and headquarters of U.S. Air Forces in Europe. It is also a NATO installation. Americans, Canadians, Germans, British, French and other nationalities comprise the base's population.
- The Royal Stables in The Hague, Netherlands: A division of the Civil Household, the Royal Stables arranges transport for the members of the Royal House and the Royal Household.
Huis Ten Bosch Palace: This address is one of the four official residences of the Dutch Royal Family, also located in The Hague, Netherlands. Queen Beatrix has lived here since 1981.
Political Pushback on Google Earth and Google Maps' Street View
- North Oaks, Minn.: In late June 2008, the St. Paul, Minn. suburb of North Oaks successfully petitioned that street images be removed from Google Maps’ Street View feature. The argument put forth collectively by North Oaks' 4,500 residents involves the fact that the town has private roads that are protected by a trespassing ordinance. Google spokeswoman Elaine Filadelfo said that she didn't know of any other city in the country that has made a similar request.
- The Boring Home: Aaron and Christine Boring of Franklin Park Pa. claimed that Google Maps' Street View feature violated their privacy, devalued their property and caused them mental suffering by posting images of a private road in front of their house. The Borings said that the images of their home must have been taken from their long driveway, which is labeled "Private Road."
- Bahrain: In August 2006, Bahrain's Ministry of Information instructed the country's Internet exchange to block access to Google Earth servers. The ban lasted three days. Internet rumors claimed that the ban's goal was to keep poorer citizens from viewing the elaborate residences and private jets of the country's rich, in order to keep secret the inequity of wealth distribution in Bahrain. Cyberactivists circulated an email that contained a PDF file with annotated Google Earth screenshots of the supposed Bahrain sites.
- Europe: In May 2008, the EU's (European Union) data-protection agency railed against Google Maps' Street View feature, which shows ground-level, 360-degree views of streets in 30 U.S. cities. Officials claimed that the feature may break EU privacy laws if launched in Europe.
- Singapore: In April 2008, the country's government claimed that the ban stemmed from a dispute between SLA (Singapore Land Authority) and Google over copyright issues. SLA alleged that the satellite images on Google Earth are direct copies of real geographic features in Singapore and infringe upon the organization's copyrights.
- Sudan: The Google Earth ban in Sudan is reportedly due to U.S. export restrictions and economic-sanctions regulations. Knowledge of the ban spread after Google Earth added info about the humanitarian crisis in Sudan's Darfur region.
- Iran: Late in 2007, an Iranian businessman tried to download Google Earth and got a message that said, "Thanks for your interest, but the product that you're trying to download is not available in your country."
- India: Google censors certain sensitive sites in India. Former Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam expressed concern over the availability of high-resolution pictures of sensitive locations within the country.
- Sydney, Australia: Much of inner Sydney still remains blurred. Google says that it removed the high-resolution photos due to a problem with one of the image providers, but Internet publications pointed to fears that the maps could be used as a terrorist tool. Some of the blocked areas include (or have included at some point) The Garden Island Naval Depot, the Lucas Heights Reactor, Parliament House and the Australian Defence Force headquarters in Canberra.
- Areas of Southeast Asia: Areas blurred by Google Earth include sensitive political areas like Tibet/Xinjiang Province, northern areas of Pakistan and royal palaces.
- Central/Eastern village of Yona, on the Pacific Island Territory of Guam: It’s unknown why this location is censored.
- The city of Utrecht in the Netherlands: Some sites say that the ban on this Dutch city was an apparent mistake, but it does hold relevance as an ancient city and has served as the religious center of the Netherlands since the eighth century.
- Fortress on Castell de Montjuïc in Barcelona, Spain: This hill no longer houses a military presence, but it’s unavailable in Google Maps' high-resolution satellite images. However it did become accessible on Google Earth in April 2008.
- Seabrook Station: This nuclear-power station is located in New Hampshire and is one of two originally planned units.
- UMass Lowell Nuclear Research Reactor: This lab's primary focus is on reactor physics, operations and modeling. It houses 1 MW pool-type nuclear research reactor that has been operating since 1974.
- Indian Point Energy Center in Westchester, N.Y.: Indian Point Energy Center is a three-unit nuclear power plant station.
- Hydroelectric Dams and Supporting Waterways Near Niagara Falls, N.Y.: Niagara Falls function as a good source of hydroelectric power, which is probably why Google keeps these dams and waterways blurred.
- McGuire Nuclear Station: With two Westinghouse pressurized water reactors and an ability to produce 2,200 megawatts of power, McGuire Nuclear Station generates almost half of North Carolina's nuclear power.
- Perry Nuclear Generating Station: The San Francisco Chronicle reported in May 2007 that a spokeswoman for FirstEnergy, the electricity company that owns this Ohio nuclear plant, had no idea why the facility was blurred on Google.
- Oconee Nuclear Station in Seneca, S.C.: Oconee Nuclear Station, which has three pressurized water reactors manufactured by The Babcock & Wilcox Company, is the second nuclear power plant in the country to have its license extended by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
- Oil-Tank Farm in Braintree, Mass.: An oil-tank farm is a storage facility for liquid chemicals.
- Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant: Though closed since 1989 due to protests, this General Electric Co. nuclear boiling-water reactor in New York is still fuzzy on Google Maps.
- Liquid Natural Gas Terminal in Chelsea, Mass. and a Large Portion of an Industrial Port Area in Boston: Both of these areas are blurry on Google Maps.
Marshall Steam Station in Terrell, N.C.: Marshall Steam Station is a four-unit, coal-fired generating facility located in Catawba County, North Carolina.
Colleges and Research Labs
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory: Lincoln Laboratory is a federally funded research-and-development center working to use advanced technology to help solve problems of national security.
- General Electric World Research Laboratories and General Electric Main Plant in Schenectady, N.Y.: According to General Electric's Web site, the research component boasts more than 3,000 of "the best and brightest researchers spread out at four multi-disciplinary facilities around the world."
- Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory: This research-and-development facility supports the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, which researches, designs, constructs, operates and maintains U.S. nuclear-powered warships.
- Stony Brook University: Stony Brook University is blurred because it houses Brookhaven National Laboratory.
- Manhattanville College's Dammann and Tenney Dormitories: Manhattanville College, located in Purchase N.Y., is probably blurred because it’s near several corporate headquarters, including PepsiCo Inc., Texaco and MasterCard.
- Noordwijk Aan Zee: The headquarters for ESTEC (European Space Research and Technology Centre and part of ESA (European Space Agency) are located in this Dutch community.
- HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) Antenna Array on the Alaska/Yukon Border: This is part of the site for HAARP, which studies ionospheric-radio science.Miscellaneous
- White Plains Train Station: The Wikipedia page for this New York train station states that "due to security reasons, overhead images of the station cannot be viewed in Google Maps or Google Earth."
- William Hurt's Home: This actor’s home outside of Paris is hazy.
- Playland Amusement Park in Rye, N.Y.: Google will not let you in on the fun at this amusement park, which boasts arcade games and 45 major rides.
- Saint Louis School in Honolulu: Only the football field, the field house, the gym and ellipse are available on Google.