Sat, Feb 16, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Military asks Google to censor facilities

FORCE PROTECTION:A source said that the military has placed a renewed emphasis on concealment and camouflage to mitigate substantial technological advancements

By Huang Hsin-po and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa, center, walks to the legislative chamber at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday to attend a question-and-answer session.

Photo: Huang Yao-cheng, Taipei Times

The military has requested that Google limit the exposure of military installations in Google Maps’ new 3D function after netizens discovered that they could view missile defense batteries ringing Taipei, Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa (嚴德發) said yesterday.

The enhanced function, which went partially online three days ago, allows users to zoom in and view locations whose satellite imagery Google has digitized into 3D data.

Users can currently view much of Taipei and its surroundings through the function, including Taipei’s Shilin District (士林) and Sindian District (新店) in New Taipei City, where the National Security Bureau compound and missile defense batteries are located respectively.

The high-definition images clearly show individual MIM-104 Patriot missile launchers, as well as a detailed layout of the bureau’s headquarters, raising concerns that the Web-based tool could compromise national security.

Yen said that Google’s advanced commercial survey satellites and the open-source maps that they produce have been troubling military forces worldwide.

The military is changing its methods and procedures to meet such technological challenges, he said, adding that the Ministry of National Defense is confident that their effects on military operations could be neutralized.

“Important installations and bases have methods in place for force protection and preservation,” Yen said.

“A military camp’s peacetime posture does not indicate the positions forces will take when at war,” he said. “The public should not be concerned by this matter.”

The ministry is considering suggesting new legislation or regulations to shield military bases beyond the protections afforded by the Vital Area Regulations (要塞堡壘地帶法), the nation’s only law regulating the conduct of private entities around military facilities, Yen said.

The government has previously dealt with Google and other online map service providers over matters related to the display of sensitive installations on digital maps, a defense official said on condition of anonymity.

In each instance, the commercial entities cooperated with the government’s request to censor the sites, they said.

However, the military has placed a renewed emphasis on concealment and camouflage, as satellite technology, functionality and image resolution have advanced by leaps and bounds, they added.

“Mobile platforms, such as the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 and Tien Kung III missile systems, have over the past few years increasingly become the deployment method of choice, because fixed positions are more vulnerable to enemy fire,” the official said.

The US requires private Internet service providers to censor its military installations, as China does with Baidu Inc (百度), the official said, adding that the military takes force protection seriously and would take the necessary action to protect national security.

Additional reporting by Lo Tien-pin

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