Back in September 2006, imagery of the New Orleans area in Google Maps and Google Earth was replaced with higher resolution aerial photographs. If you're a Googler, you probably have at least a vague idea that they do this sort of thing from time to time.
However, in the New Orleans case, the higher-resolution imagery was actually taken before August 2005. In other words, the imagery was pre-Hurricane Katrina; it replaced post-Katrina imagery.
If you're a normal person, you'll probably say: so?
But you might be a certain other type of person. You might be deeply partisan. Or you might be suspicious, bordering on paranoid. Or you might be much more interested in symbolism than substance. Or you might be prone to making serious charges without evidence. Or you might be more than a tad arrogant, maybe without the smarts to back it up. Or maybe you're a publicity hound. Or maybe you get a little thrill from ordering people around. Or you might have been granted, not so much by merit, but by the workings of coincidence and seniority in your current job, a position of somewhat enlarged power.
Or you might have some combination of all those traits, in which case you would be Congressman Ralph Bradley "Brad" Miller (D-NC), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, of the House Committee on Science and Technology. And that would lead you inexorably to write this letter (PDF) to Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google.
In the letter,
Congressman Brad summarizes the 3/29 AP
news report. (Itself a superficial effort from a wannabe muckraker
giving short shrift to a Google spokesperson's innocent explanation.)
Brad then "requests" (by which he really means: demands) a "full
briefing" on Google's detailed process on maintaining its imagery
for the area, and that Google cough up records of any "requests"
Karl Rove any federal government
agency relevant to the imagery.
Then the condescending arrogance is dialed up to 11:
Google's not just dishonest. They're fundamentally dishonest.
Now, if I ran the Google, my reply to Congressman Brad would somehow manage to work in this quote:
But that's just one of the many reasons I'm not running the Google; a public company needs to be a little more diplomatic in dealing with a powerful fathead. So instead, their public response here is well worth reading. Some relevant points:
Volunteers at Google worked quickly with NOAA and NASA to publish
post-Katrina imagery within days of the storm.
They established a dedicated site for
In addition, Google Maps and Google Earth were upgraded to post-Katrina
imagery on April 1, on an expedited schedule.
To ask these questions is to answer them. (Specifically: no, I have no idea, don't know, nothing, nobody, see the Twain quote.)
In the meantime, I recalled this article from 2005: "Google's givers go Democratic": a description of how 98% of Google employees' political contributions went to Democrats.
You know that old saying: "A conservative is a liberal who's been mugged." I wonder what happens to a political donor whose company gets mugged by a Democratic congressman?