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US military blocks Google from mapping bases

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The US Defense Department said Thursday it is forbidding Google from filming and depicting in detail its military bases, after officials found precise imagery of a Texas base on the Google Maps website.


"We received a report that Google Maps was collecting imagery and 360 degree views, including detailed imagery, of a base in Texas," Gary Ross, spokesman for the US Northern Command, told AFP in explaining the Pentagon's move.


The Defense Department issued a statement that said "detailed ground level imagery" of US military installations had been placed on Google Maps.


"Images include 360 degree views of the covered area to include access control points, barriers, headquarters, facilities and community areas," it said.


Specifically, images of the Fort Sam Houston army base in Texas were posted, it said.


Google employees had entered military bases with permission to conduct mapping and had taken panoramic images of the area with "roof-mounted recording equipment," it added, referring to the activity as a "potential threat."


Google told AFP that a driver of one of its "street view" vehicles mistakenly drove onto a Texas military base about 10 days ago in violation of a policy not to map private roads or facilities where the public isn't normally allowed.


The driver asked for and received permission to enter the base, according to Google spokesman Larry Yu.


"One of our drivers clearly broke out policy and that was a mistake," Yu told AFP.


"We've reminded the drivers it is against our policy to ask for access to military bases, drive on private roads, ignore 'no trespassing' signs, etc."


Google quickly removed the base images from Google Earth after being alerted to the situation by US military officials, Yu said.


"We don't have a problem with Google Earth," Ross said of another Google website that displays detailed street and relief maps, satellite images, and 360-degree views of buildings.


"The bottom line is while they are on base they collect detailed imagery of access controls, headquarters locations, security facilities and community areas, that poses an operational risk to our force protection," Ross said.


"While it is a very useful tool, there has to be a balance."


The department directive called on base officials to prevent 360 degree photography of base areas for use on the Internet, and to deny access to vehicles with "imaging or surveillance capabilities" that do not have the base commander's authorization.

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