The recent news that South Korea is to take the US to task over Google Earth images which expose its military installations to close Commie scrutiny has provoked a mini stampede of other peace-loving nations eager to protect their assets from prying eyes.
Enter stage right Thailand, which says it may ask Google to "block images of important state buildings vulnerable to attack". Armed forces spokeschap Major General Weerasak Manee-in told Reuters: "We are looking for possible restrictions on these detailed pictures, especially state buildings. I think pictures of tourist attractions should do, not crucial places which could threaten national security."
Well, we went and had a quick shufti at some Thai military installations, and took the opportunity to scour the Earth's surfaces for other Google satellite data which might threaten Our Way of Life. We restricted ourselves to stuff which lends itself to perusal, mostly air force bases, because (trust us on this one) you can easily waste a whole day looking for Russian ICBM installations.
First up, the evidence for Thai military preparedness. Here's Udorn Air Force base, around 300 miles from Bangkok:
Move along, nothing to see here, but try Korat:
That's more like it. Zoom in for a closer look, and voila! Top-quality, US-bought hardware:
They've even got an awacs parked there on the hard shoulder:
Hmmm. The good General may have a point. On the other hand, what is Thailand realistically going to do about it?
Manee's Sri Lankan counterpart, Brigadier Daya Ratnayake, admitted it was a "serious concern if anyone could get detailed images of sensitive installations and buildings", but added: "This is a new trend, we will first have to see whether, in this day and age, if this a considerable threat to national security."
He sagely added: "In this era of technology, you have to live with the fact that almost everything is on the internet - from bomb-making instructions to assembling aircraft. So it's something the military has to learn to live with and adapt."
India agrees. Reuters quotes an anonymous security official there as confirming that "the issue of satellite imagery had been discussed at the highest level but the government had concluded that 'technology cannot be stopped'."
"We are aware that there are websites which give detailed pictures of buildings like the president's house including every tree in the compound. Our security agencies are aware of this but how can we stop technology?" he added.
How indeed? And just to prove the point, here's Palam airport in New Delhi, home of domestic flights but also government air transportation in and out of the capital:
A planespotter's paradise, as a close-up reveals:
Australia, too, has been fretting a little over Google's all-seeing eye. The Australian Department of Defence has said it is taking "appropriate measures to manage the threat" posed by satellite imaging:
The above is a lovely snap of Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights, south of Sydney, although ANSTO declared the "current images on Google posed no security risk" because: "Although buildings are clearly visible, critical infrastructure is not. The photographs are over two years old."
Quite so. At this point we're getting the feeling that the South Koreans and Thai may be over-reacting a tad. What's more, they're not looking at the plus side: if Vietnam and North Korea are as we speak eagerly filling their broadband boots with Google-supplied military secrets, what's to stop us exploiting the same resource?