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Clueless in California? (…or is it just me?) :-)

(Note added June 21, 2009: Please see this later blog entry for more about the expansive goals of Assemblyman Joel Anderson.)

Firstly, I want to extend a “Hello!” and welcome to new readers and viewers in France, China, Sweden, Japan, the Russian Federation, and Italy, but especially to the large increase in viewers in Germany, mostly in the Berlin area, but also in Munich. I also want to welcome new readers/viewers who are “dropping in” from new locations in Central and South America!

(Note added March 22, 2009: And the recent large increase in viewers/readers in France…! Bonjour!)

Secondly, I am sorry to have to postpone coverage of the new, talking iPod Shuffle until another time – something BIGGER :-) came up.

A California lawmaker, Assemblyman Joel Anderson (R, San Diego area), last month introduced the bill AB-255 that would “censor” some aspects of Google Earth, “blurring” the amount of detail that users could see with online mapping tools. The bill also provides for fines of up to $250,000/day. Anderson said that images from Google Maps were used in the attacks in Mumbai, India, and that the goal of the bill is to prevent terrorism. You can read the copyrighted story on the CNN website.

I personally believe that AB-255 might have quite the OPPOSITE effect (from preventing terrorism) than intended. My arguments result from my belief in capabilities, since I do not have the security clearance to speak from “hard facts” and would be unable to, if I DID! :-) (Funny how that works, isn’t it?) If there is anyone out there with actual knowledge, I would ask them to determine if the knowledge could be shared with Assemblyman Anderson, and if so, please take him aside and INFORM him, before California passes another stupid law. (And maintains our status as an ongoing object of national ridicule….) :-)

Once upon a time, the U.S. government similarly “blurred” the results from GPS devices in civilian hands. Now it does not (or not as much). Why? It is no longer necessary. Such distortion (for non-military users) can probably be produced regionally, “on demand,” in a war zone, for example.

Once upon a time, the U.S. government “threatened” Phil Zimmerman, the creator of Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), with prison in a criminal investigation begun by the Customs Service for the alleged violation of the Arms Export Control Act. (You may remember T-shirts from the time, with the PGP code on them, under the heading, “I am a munition!”) :-) The investigation lasted three years but was dropped without filing charges. Why? It was no longer necessary. I personally believe that the investigation was dropped as soon as methods for decoding PGP rapidly were available to the government. After all, why spend government money investigating a man and a technology that are no longer threats.

Now, what is the danger with AB-255, which would blur Google Earth like the U.S. government USED to blur GPS? My belief is that online tools like Google Earth and Google Maps, if not currently being used to find terrorists (I don’t know! :-) ) are SOME OF THE BEST TOOLS AVAILABLE as “honeypots” in the interception of communications from terrorists and in pinpointing the precise locations of potential targets of terrorism. Blurring the results from Google Earth MIGHT just drive terrorists to (less specific) sources of information (printed maps? :-) ) that would be MUCH harder for anti-terrorist efforts to spot!

So, if any of the above makes sense in real life (as I said, I do not have the security clearance to know), someone who DOES KNOW should contact Assemblyman Anderson and inform him, before California’s (often misguided) state government takes another giant step backward in technology for no reason and hampers REAL ongoing investigations of terrorist threats.

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

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