Indian Web-based Map Bhuvan Raises Security Concerns

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Google Earth, a 3-D interactive global map from the Internet giant—has helped revolutionize the way Internet users think of global data and mapping. Now, India’s National Remote Sensing Center (NRSC) is getting ready to roll out Bhuvan, a high-resolution service similar to Google Earth aimed at helping government agencies and development planners, and aims to include a good deal of information not available via Google Earth. But, in the wake of the recent Mumbai terror attacks, some are wondering if the service will also come with risks.

Information published so far about Bhuvan (which, if this author remembers correctly, is a name based on the Sanskrit word for “Earth”) has been contradictory, but it appears the service aims to offer satellite imagery to a 2.5 meter resolution, with annual updates for imagery on the Indian subcontinent. In addition to roads, buildings, and terrain, however, Bhuvan will also offer information useful to town planners, emergency responders, administrators, and developers, including information on ground water, soil types, and land use information. Data will be available to the public for free, with the highest-resolution information (and ancillary data) apparently being available for a fee to to government agencies and other authorized users.

The service raised security questions because the single surviving gunman from the recent terror attacks in Mumbai has told authorities they were prepped for their attack with images from Google Earth. Nearly 170 people were killed in the attack and subsequent 3-day siege.