Defense ministry to ask Apple to blur satellite views

EYE IN THE SKY::A mapping facility provided by the high-tech titan potentially threatens the secrecy of sensitive military facilities, armed forces chiefs said

Staff writer, with CNA

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 - Page 3

The Ministry of National Defense is to ask Apple to lower the resolution of its satellite photographs of major military facilities and sensitive locations, a ministry spokesman said yesterday.

Major General David Lo (羅紹和) was responding to questions about media reports that Apple’s iOS6 software clearly shows the air force’s long-range early warning radar installations in its satellite photos.

There is no law governing the content of commercial satellite photos at present, Luo said, but he said the ministry will ask Apple to follow Google’s practice and limit the resolution of the photos.

Since the launch of Google Maps, fixed military installations — such as radar stations and airfields — have not been able to avoid the attention of satellites, Lo said, a problem faced not only by the Republic of China, but also the US, Russia, China and others.

“We will ask Apple to follow the pattern previously adopted by Google and reduce the resolution of satellite photos showing the military’s major facilities and sensitive installations or use other ways to properly shield our targets to reduce the threat to security,” Lo said.

The military is to also step up efforts to camouflage major facilities to cover up recognizable features and adopt protective measures to ensure the security of military bases, Lo said.

Asked whether military secrets could be exposed by the photos, Lo said sensitive sites exist inside rather than outside military facilities.

“How to manage the insides of military facilities well is the major issue,” he said.

Lieutenant General Wu Wan-chiao (吳萬教), director of the Department of Political Warfare, said that when Google launched its mapping software, the military also expressed the hope that the photos would not be that clear. Now, when Google Maps focuses in on military bases near Dazhi (大直) in Taipei, for example, a large blank area is shown, he said.