When you’re scouring your neighbourhood to detect possible risks to your organisation, a tool like Google Earth can be a valuable asset. Without leaving your desk you can tour streets and advance street view by street view, pinpoint addresses such as the nearest phone service and electricity providers on your map and spot vulnerabilities – that remote site with no surrounding fence, for example. That’s the good side of Google Earth. However, it also has its limitations and even potential drawbacks. Find out more about these below so that you won’t be caught short.
Firstly, Google Earth offers a massive amount of information and the possibility to home in and visualise specific geographical areas. The data now extends to 3D building information in a number of cities, with features such as real-time weather display and distance measurements. However, watch out for a number of points. Not all of the data is up to date or complete, and the display of more elaborate images such as 3D renderings may require more time depending on your network connection.
Secondly, what you can see concerning your company, your sites and your environment can be viewed by everybody else as well. Any security weaknesses are exposed to all. This potential problem extends to countries, not just corporations. Recently, Thailand asked the US to restrict such images to tourist attractions only and refrain from making public photos of state buildings. Cover, concealment, surveillance, theft and sabotage are all possible activities that criminals or terrorists might engage in if Google Earth images show that the landscape lends its self to them.
In a sense, it may be difficult not to use Google Earth, even if there is no guarantee of the recency and accuracy of its information. If it reveals information about your organisation that might be used against you by others, then you need know – preferably before they do. So put it on the list of items to assess as part of your business continuity and disaster recovery planning process. Even a quick check may save you from unfortunate consequences.