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Lawyer requests Google Earth ban following Mumbai attacks

An Indian lawyer has called for Google Earth to be banned, claiming that the online satellite imaging tool was used in planning the deadly Mumbai terror attacks last month.

Amit Karkhanis, who filed a petition in the Mumbai High Court, argues that Google Earth and similar services "aid terrorists in plotting attacks".

The petition, which is backed by India's federal defence and science and technology ministries, is demanding Google Earth remove satellite images of India, or at the very least, blur images of sensitive places in the country, such as Indian nuclear plants and defence establishments.

Karkhanis said: "Even though it is not a detailed mapping, it gives a fair idea to terrorists."

This is not the first time that India has expressed concern over Google Earth.

Three years ago former Indian president Abdul Kalam expressed concerns that unrestricted images on Google Earth of sensitive locations in India could provide terrorists with sufficient knowledge to launch an attack.

Investigators into last month's Mumbai terror attack, which killed 171 people, claim that the gunmen used Google Earth to memorise images of their targets and plan their assault.

A Google spokesman told the Daily Telegraph that Google is always willing to discuss relevant issues with public agencies and officials, but he also sought to emphasise the "vital purpose" that Google Earth serves. He cited how it was used as a force for good by emergency services.

He said: "Google strongly condemns acts of terrorism and violence. We stand by the citizens of India and the city of Mumbai as they recover from the attacks.

"Tools such as Google Earth are built from information that is already available from both commercial and public sources, and it is important to remember that the same information is available to anyone who purchases imagery from those public sources.

"Google's freely-available technology has been used for vital purposes ranging from fighting forest fires to emergency response, rescue, and relief in natural disasters.

"In India, Google Earth has been used for flood relief in Gujarat, Tsunami relief and rehabilitation in southern India and earthquake relief in Kashmir.

"We believe that the benefits of access to tools such as Google Earth for such valuable purposes far outweigh any negatives from potential misuse."

The petition is likely to come up for hearing on December 18.

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