back to article Top US Senator to Apple, Google: 'Curb your spy planes'

One week after Apple announced it was booting Google Maps from iOS and photographing the world with its own aerial fleet, a top US Senator has written to both companies expressing concern over their "military-grade spy planes." "Barbequing or sunbathing in your backyard shouldn't be a public event," said Senator Charles …


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  1. tom t

    4 inch resolution...

    That would resolve my crucial component to 2 pixels! Wow!

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: 4 inch resolution...

      I'd worry about jagged edges then..

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 4 inch resolution...

      Will see a lot more if me than a 4" resolution picture. While my wife and I sunbathe and swim in our pool, naked...

      If the image appears on Google will this be considered porn, will google earth be adult only, can I sue if the exposé my m*****d?

      1. Dazed and Confused

        Re: 4 inch resolution...

        > If the image appears on Google will this be considered porn, will google earth

        If the kids go skinny dipping will GApple end up behind bars for distributing child porn. Lets face it, kids in some US states have been prosecuted for photographing themselves.

      2. vic 4

        Re: m*****d

        Could you give another letter or two, I may be getting niave but I can't fill in the blanks. Second thoughts, I don't want to!

        1. Shakje

          @vic 4

          It's a sad day when someone feels that they have to star out manhood.

          1. vic 4

            Re: @vic 4

            Duh! never thought of that, but then again would never have thought that would need a*******s

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 4 inch resolution...

      Way too much information, but thanks. I'll let you know if I see it, but I guess you hear that a lot.

    4. Pristine Audio
      Thumb Up

      Re: 4 inch resolution...

      My Dad already appears naked in his garden on Google Earth - but fortunately not a 4-inch resolution!

      1. Ted Treen

        Re: 4 inch resolution...

        Let's hope it's not a case of "Like Father, like Son"...

  2. Anonymous Coward

    "Detailed photographs could also provide criminals and terrorists with detailed views of sensitive utilities,"

    What a fuckwit.

    OK, let's keep everyone ignorant, let's cancel the biggest information revolution in the history of the human race...because a he thinks that information might help a "few" people do some bad things.

    Let's get a sense of proportion guys, really.

    Can we have a combined WTF/FAIL icon please?

    1. Buzzword

      Quite right. What he's proposing is security through obscurity. Fail indeed.

      1. mark1978

        Quite it's Security 101 that that's a pointless endeavor.

    2. PT

      Ah, but Schumer isn't just another grandstanding politician looking for some reason to get his name in the papers. Schumer truly WOULD like to cancel the "biggest information revolution in the history of the human race". He tried to strangle the internet at birth by his opposition to putting DARPAnet into the public domain, and lately he was a leading proponent of crippling it by DNS blocking (PIPA). His crocodile tears about the privacy of the public contrast strangely with his efforts to outlaw BitCoin and Tor on the grounds that privacy online is harmful.

      In other news. Schumer supported the repeal of the Glass–Steagall Act that permitted Wall Street to bring us to the depression we're in today, and also uses his influence on the Senate finance committees to block any attempt to tax unearned investment income at the same rate the rest of us have to pay. My fellow commentards will be unsurprised to learn that most of the money for his reelection campaign comes from the financial services industry. Truly, this Blue Dog serves his master faithfully.

    3. Dave Bell

      I wonder if the infrastructure stuff is meant to give governments an excuse to act in a way which maintains privacy.

      As far as some of this stuff goes, figuring out what the images mean can be tricky. It isn't something anyone can do. And it would need close to military levels of organisation to use the info. We're not talking about something like London or Madrid, or even 9/11. Mumbai is the only thing that comes close.

      As for illicit garden sheds, Google Earth is a bit variable, but many areas are covered with more detail than is typical of the WW2 photo-recce. Just don't trust the dates assigned to the images. Local knowledge here, but sometimes they have caught a summer event in progress and the photo-date is mid-winter.

      Is this a scare story? Maybe it is. Do people realise how much information is going to get put out there? Maybe they will now.

      1. h4rm0ny

        "As far as some of this stuff goes, figuring out what the images mean can be tricky. It isn't something anyone can do. And it would need close to military levels of organisation to use the info."

        Nah, it's easy. Just write a program that goes through Google maps and picks out any locations that have been blurred. Voila - instant target list.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well said!

      "information might help a "few" people do some bad things."

      Like books and word of mouth training, both of which we've had for some considerable number of years prior to the internet!

  3. stanimir

    Shooting the spy plane

    I always wondered what prevents a person from shooting the spy plane. Obtaining the data might be not so easy as it should be encrypted but still worth a try.

    1. ratfox

      Re: Shooting the spy plane

      If you really want the data, just fly you own damn plane; it will be far easier, and even cheaper.

      1. stanimir

        Re: Shooting the spy plane

        I am more interested in the shooting part, the data is a bonus (candy) after the main event.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Indeed, ratfox.

        See my post from a couple years ago:

  4. MIc


    tell that to the d bags ramping up the use of drones over the US

  5. David 164

    Well some sites are already blurred on Google Maps for security reasons, so we can presume there are already protocols in place for security officials to request locations be blurred. Apple may be different.

    Sound to me this senator just wanted his day in the limelight, now go back to taking bribes and pork barrel politics and leave the internet and the information revolution alone.

  6. Zombie Womble

    Abdul: Ahmed, get your expendable hedge shears quickly,

    Ahmed: It's about time you pruned that Apple tree.

    Abdul: No Ahmed, now Google has told us where the power lines are we can cripple the capitalist dogs.

    Ahmed: Sorry Abdul but bringing America to it's knees will have to wait until after the weekend, I lent Zarif my rubber gloves.

    Abdul: Oh Allah, you can be so cruel.

  7. Anonymous Bosch

    Building Inspectors

    Here in the City of Brotherly Love L&I have photo flyovers of their own and then match the photos with tax registers. No need to obscure Google/Apple, it is already too late...

  8. Tom 35

    The first would give

    time to paint a giant "body part" on the roof or mow "Google Sucks" into the grass.

    1. mark1978

      Re: The first would give

      Been done my friend, been done.

  9. Joe User

    Note to self: Mow the letters "F U" in the backyard.

    1. MichaelBirks

      You might very well do that,

      But I couldn't possibly comment.

  10. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Note to marketing

    Describing anything as military-grade makes you sound like a retard

    Although mil-spec garibaldi "Biscuits, fruit-filled (pack of 6)" are still delicious

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Note to marketing

      'mil-spec garibaldi "Biscuits, fruit-filled (pack of 6)"'

      AKA kevlar inserts.

  11. Alan Firminger

    Isn't there a law somewhere the UK

    Photographs are prohibited of people in what may reasonably considered as private places, like a back garden.

    it must be because the back garden of Buckingham Palace is comfortably overlooked by Portland House and has been for about thirty years. No private long lens pictures have been published.

    Here :,+Bressenden+Place,+London,+United+Kingdom&hl=en&sll=51.512001,-0.11055&sspn=0.030821,0.084543&oq=Portland+House&t=h&hq=Portland+House,+Bressenden+Place,+London,+United+Kingdom&z=15

  12. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    Forget painted body parts..

    .. I'd call this an excellent argument to put up some serious 3D street art, drawing extra roads, houses and the occasional human who needs to be blotted out. You'll know when the images have gone live when drivers show up, desperately trying to find he supermarket car parks you converted..

    There is no law that says we have to provide Google with real data, so we might as well have some fun with some creative data pollution..

  13. jubtastic1

    Don't blur the people

    Content aware fill them away, I want to see ghost towns not apparitions, and while you're at it, here's a fiver to 'shop the kids junk out of my garden, a tenner if you squeeze in a pool and some decking.

    1. ElNumbre

      Re: Don't blur the people

      Merkins will be wondering right now what you're doing displaying kids junk in your garden.

      Insert generic won't something think of the somethings reference here.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Don't blur the people

        No, Merkins won't. When I was a kid, all us kids on my street had junk strewn in the back garden, the front garden, and up and down the sidewalk ... Ah, the late 50s & early 60s. Was a completely different era. We didn't even lock the doors of houses back then ... If a kid was thirsty, he'd knock on a friends door. If there were no answer, he'd enter & get a drink of water. Sometimes I wonder where we went wrong.

        Yes, I get your joke, but many words have many meanings, depending on context. In this context, it clearly means "toys & stuff".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Don't blur the people

          @ jake

          Sometimes I wonder where we went wrong.

          It's must have been the water meters.

  14. Graham Marsden

    "intelligence that could aid terrorists"

    Well, were the Senator to actually *use* some intelligence he'd probably realise that he might as well piss up a rope for all the good that it will do him.

    His plan makes as much sense as all those Jobsworth "Community Support Officers" etc trying to stop tourists from taking pictures of London landmarks.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "intelligence that could aid terrorists"

      I'm surprised he forgot to mention pedophiles. For instance if a five year old-girl-was sunbathing, she'd be about--let's see--10 innocent, vulnerable pixels high. I can hear them salivating now.

  15. Stuart Elliott


    I like seeing my house on Google maps :(

  16. pcsupport

    Bing have been doing this for years. What's the fuss?

  17. Dave 126 Silver badge


    Someone might be caught sunbathing in their garden at a 4" resolution. Wow. Is anyone with access to the internet going to spend time ogling 600 pink pixels, when they can easily find high res smut elsewhere?

    1. Steven Roper

      Re: ?

      Excuse me, sir. I have discovered some pictures of you sunbathing naked with a woman who is clearly not your wife. In order for me not to bring this matter to the attention of your wife, please enclose a wire transfer or cash money order for $US 10,000.00 (TEN THOUSAND US DOLLARS) with your response to this communication...

      1. David 164

        Re: ?

        Well you a rather crap investigator, one I do not have a wife, two I am not idiotic enough to get caught cheating with my girlfriend or future wives outside where any peeping tom/girl could catch us. Three I do not have 10K. An I consider Google and Apple catching cheats a public service, they should even help everyone out and provide proper facial recognition software, after all scouring Google Earth for one image which could be use for bribery or looking for the one photo of your husband cheating on you is time consuming. By the way that is bribery and I be straight to the police, I can live without my Girlfriend but can you live with a 10 year prison sentence.

        1. Steven Roper

          Re: ?

          D'oh Jesus. Way to miss the fucking point!

  18. Stevie


    I live in Schumer's state and I say "photograph away!"

    The majestic Chateau Stevie is in all likelihood smaller than the resolution on both Apple and Google's spydrones. I live the Talking Heads dream. Blink, and you miss it. Step too aggressively through the front door and you are in my neighbour's back yard.

    Besides, the rich gits can afford trees to screen their outdoor nude nakedness, or use parachute-sized patio umbrellas for modesty.

    Seriously, Senator Chuck, get your priorities straight.

  19. Gannon (J.) Dick

    Seen one sattellite photograph ...

    ... you've seen them all. Seriously. Think about it. What "knowledge" is being gained or organized here ? Are they going back afterwards and linking it up ? They are spending a terrific amount of money to prove they have too much money. Um, we knew that.

  20. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    Election year, perhaps?

    "We take the security of our voters very seriously, unlike our dark-skinned opponent who (let others) deploy a fleet of spy planes over our sacred homeland, to help his terrorist brethen's plans to destroy America. Oh and they are kiddie-fiddlers, too"

    I guess "they may even catch moonshiners and KKK ceremonies" is somewhat implied...

    You've got to love US elections.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dear Senator, Kettle meet Pot

    How about ya curb the drone crap in the homeland.

    The Senator's main theme is - "Don't steal, the government doesn't like competition." That's why he wants to swat apple, google.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: Dear Senator, Kettle meet Pot

      Precisely! Don't spy on people, THAT"S OUR JOB!!

  22. ZPO

    Schumer thinks this is new???

    Given how much he blathers on aviation issues he doesn't understand, I think he heard "plane" and thought he needed to say something.

    Digital Orthophoto Quarter Quads (DOQQs) have been available from the US Geologic Survey (USGS) for years. Some states/counties allow you to download them for free. Otherwise they can be readily purchased on DVD. They have more than enough resolution for a slightly trained imagery analyst to pick out and target critical infrastructure.

    My county, like Anonymous Bosch's (above), also does full aerial photogrammetry sweeps every five years. This is quite common though the frequency varies by state/county/city. Such sweeps are already used to locate structures built without permits. My county is going through the process now and sending out inspectors.

    I find it much more likely that Google, Apple, and other would simply license the existing photogrammetry datasets rather than refly everywhere. In certain targeted areas not already covered by LIDAR or other 3D aerial mapping, they might do selective area coverage.

  23. largefile

    Don't leave BING out of this.

    BING has had arial photography "Bird's Eye View" from planes for a few years now. Feel left out that you aren't also hammering on Microsoft. Whe The Reg and it's readers miss an opportunity to say something bad about Microsoft it hurts!

    1. druck Silver badge

      Re: Don't leave BING out of this.

      Multi-map had Birds Eye View for years, MS bought them and shoved it in to Bing.

  24. TheRealWelshCJ

    Oh the irony

    It's ok for the US Government to use UAVs to spy on the innoncents all around the world, but God help any corporation who tries to film me flipping burgers on a sunny Sunday afternoon!

    Do you know who I am?

  25. cloudgazer

    Seems ironic really

    Given that the most dangerous place to be in America is between Charles Schumer and a camera.

  26. Nameless Faceless Computer User

    suggestions with no force of law

    re: suggestions with no force of law - American based corporations have no issues with doing anything legal, or marginally legal. So... nice words falling on deaf ears.

  27. Killraven

    Issue of Scope

    I'm a lot more concerned about the secret things that the military/CIA/FBI/NSA/DEA, and all sort of other government agnecies, are doing with UAVs, than I care about Apple or Google.

  28. philbo


    =go ogle?

    1. jake Silver badge

      @philbo (was: Re: Google?)

  29. Joeman

    Terrorists simply do not exist!

    If they existed on the scale that the governments would like us to believe, then why are we not under constant daily attack??

    They dont need accurate map data to disrupt our infrastructure, they just need to toss a scaffold pole into an electricity substation, or chuck a shopping trolly on a train line, or even simpler, park a truck in the middle of a motorway.. all of these things would cause serious disruption and be deemed terrorist attacks, but they are just not happening!!

    Therefore i conclude that terrorists do not exist.

    1. Thorne

      Re: Terrorists simply do not exist!

      "Therefore i conclude that terrorists do not exist."

      Haven't you met PETA?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Scary Surveillance Society overnight

    All very amusing - but I would rather they were not allowed to just go ahead and take these kind of images without prior legal authorisation at all. If there was some process they had to go through to apply for this access, they would likely be refused most of the time and the process would be long and drawn out even in cases where they did gain access. Instead this "act first and ask later" routine is absolutely incredible and has led us into the realm of a sci-fi style surveillance society without any choice or process on our part, virtually overnight - especially since at this rate it is surely not long before the satellite views become live or you can order your own drone flyby online!

  31. Eguro

    There is a point in this

    If I take my ladder (first order of business would technically be to buy a ladder, but well) and start going around in my city, climbing above hedges and photographing gardens and houses in a systematic fashion, and then go home and upload it to "" for all to see, then I am fairly certain that I've broken the law at some point.

    Is this not similar - in relevant ways - to what Google/Apple is doing? If not, why not?

  32. Tank boy
    Black Helicopters

    Gotta like this

    Chuck Schumer is worried about Google and Apple using "military grade" aircraft to map? Pot, the kettle called, it said you're black. No worries about local police departments (and other agencies) using the same drones to keep tabs on citizens? Way to make a stand Chuck.

  33. Cameron Colley

    Am I the only one wondering...

    What does the senator have or do in his back yard that he's so worried people will see?

  34. Ron 6
    Thumb Down

    4-inch resolution?

    4-inch resolution isn't that good. It means you can see a feature that is 4"x4". You may not be able to identify it all that well. You certainly could not use it to identify somebody from the photograph.

  35. Thorne

    "blur out images of individuals."

    At a four inch resolution how much more blurry does he want it? A boob would be four pixels at best.

    Not even CSI can sharpen that resolution

  36. mhenriday
    Big Brother

    Mr Schumer merely wishes to protect the present government monopoly

    on aerial devices that fly around talking pictures, videos, whatever of people ; note this recent Wired article : Alas, against these machine, Rik's advice «to close your drapes» is unlikely to prove effective....


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