Google Maps finally does a better job hiding Tel Aviv

Israelis often joke that they had no idea Tel Aviv had so many parks until they looked up the satellite image of their city on Google Maps.  But this really should be “parks” in quotes because they are referring to Google’s legal obligation — known for years but discussed recently in this Mother Jones article and a subsequent piece in PC magazine — not to publish high-resolution images of Israel and, more controversially, its practice of obscuring sensitive installations and buildings.  Putting aside, for the moment, the peculiarity that these protections do not apply to images of other countries in the region, the question is: if Google is going to hide things on Israel’s behalf, shouldn’t they at least do a good job of it?

Well, they’re getting better.  The image above was made in December 2009 of an intersection in Tel Aviv and the straight-edged dark-gray fig leaf placed over whatever that is on Derech Kibuts Galuyot and Shlabim could hardly be more obvious if they’d labelled it ‘suspicious’ and placed a big star next to it.  The image below was made a few days ago and though it is at the same amplification as the earlier image it offers conspicuously lower resolution and ground detail, which allows the softer-edged medium-gray fig leaf to blend in quite a bit better.  So, there’s been progress, though not much.  But, come on Google, the jokers are right — how about a few palm trees for camouflage?

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