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Google refuses to blur nuclear facilities on Google Maps

© Google Maps
Doel nuclear power plant in East Flanders
© Google Maps

Internet search giant Google has rejected a request from the Belgian nuclear power regulator to blur out its satellite images of the country’s nuclear power stations for security reasons. Google will respond positively to requests from private individuals to blur their homes in its Street View mode, and it routinely blurs the faces of people in the streets and car number plates.

But when the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control, together with the federal home affairs ministry, approached Google with a request to blur the satellite pictures of nuclear plants (see photo) Google refused.

“There have been contacts regarding this issue,” said Google Belgium spokesperson Michiel Sallaets. “But there is no legal basis in Belgium for a request for Google to remove these images.”

For the FANC, the risk is real, particularly the risk of terrorist attacks. The photo shown is a magnification intended to fill the frame with the Doel nuclear power plant; much closer magnification at a high degree of definition is possible with an ordinary laptop. The latest satellite images available for the location date from 2019, so are the best currently available. The image can also be viewed in 3D and dragged to give a full tour of the site. The same applies to the plant at Tihange.

The FANC is not prepared to leave it there, said spokesperson Ines Venneman. “We maintain our point of view. These images must be blurred, and we will investigate any means to have that done. In the first instance we will follow the example of the defence ministry. They succeeded in having satellite images of military sites blurred.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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