back to article Google deletes Maps satellite photos of 14-year-old's unsolved murder

Google has said it is acting quickly to remove distressing images on Google Maps, after the family of a murdered 14-year-old saw his body on the system's satellite photos. Kevin Barrera was shot to death on the way home from school in San Francisco's East Bay area in August 2009. Last week his family was alerted to the Maps …


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    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That kind of frequency... reserved for military purposes.

      1. solo

        Re: That kind of frequency...

        Are rights of NSA and military different? By policy? By Technology?

        1. kain preacher

          Re: That kind of frequency...

          The uper management and the top guy at he NSA are all active duty.

    2. Old Handle

      Seriously though, the highest resolution "satellite" images Google uses are really aerial photographs. Presumably the aircraft taking pictures wasn't overhead at the time of the murder.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        > aircraft taking pictures wasn't overhead

        More gorgon-stare-equipped drones are clearly needed.

        1. Vociferous

          Yeah, the US should follow Britain into the surveillance society. CCTV's on every corner, drones in the sky, and an apache helicopter on the horizon, that's the only way to be safe.

          1. 5.antiago

            "CCTV's on every corner"

            In fairness, while CCTV doesn't directly make you safer necessarily, it does help secure conviction against criminals, which indirectly drives down crime in the long run (or at least, pushes it into non-CCTV covered areas where it is "safer" to make a living as a criminal)

            1. Graham Marsden
              Thumb Down

              @ 5.antiago

              "CCTV doesn't directly make you safer necessarily, it does help secure conviction against criminals"

              ITYM "may occasionally look a bit like someone who possibly then might be recognised, if you're lucky".

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              In fairness, while CCTV doesn't directly make you safer necessarily, it does help secure conviction against criminals, which indirectly drives down crime in the long run

              What a load of rubbish. Any convictions it secures are negated by the fact that the sentancing is a joke and more and more serious crimes are seeing jail time served reducing rather than increasing caused by amongst other things overcrowded jails. Crime isn't been driven down the jails are overcrowded and the government statistics misleading and that's before you take into account the amount of people who feel it's not worth the stress or hassle to push for a conviction because they are being made to feel like the villain by the likes of the police

              1. blackbird1974

                Here is a thought...with marijuana now being legal in several states including California where this Google image occurred, why not release all the prisoners that are serving time on marijuana charges based on what the current laws are. In other words what ever is legal now with regards to marijuana but was not years ago and those that are serving jail time with charges from those years back but would not be in jail today with the new laws, could and should be released. I'm sure this would free up plenty of space for jail cells that are needed for more devious, violent crimes. This would also save tax payer money, provide more man power to police better and much more. Example: Let's say someone is currently serving years in jail for having a small amount of marijuana that is today is legal & would not get jail time. Why keep that person in jail over old laws? Release these prisoners allowing more jail space for people that commit more serious crimes.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              CCTV on every corner (what a waste!)

              Believe me when I tell you that in most cases the footage from CCTV is too poor an image to use to convict anyone. In others, the "chain of custody" for the video images is questioned and the video gets thrown out of court.

              Far too many people have the "CSI syndrome" where they think you can say "Enhance" and see something usable at 100x digital zoom. Digital Zooming reduces the number of usable pixels down to almost nothing. 1/100 of nothing is less than nothing. Facial recognition software is one of the most farcical con jobs ever perpetrated on government and it does not work reliably unless the picture is head on from 3 m or less. You might be able to determine race, height (if there is a measureable reference in the shot), clothing, general appearance, but almost never will you get absolute proof of identity. The higher the camera is mounted the less likely you are to see anything of value. If the camera is perpendicular to the subject you have a far greater possibility of identification but then the camera can be easily vandalized.

              You cell phone camera sensor is better than most CCTV cameras and you know how good a cell phone zooms (not very).

              Those of you who give up your Liberty to gain a false sense of Security soon have neither.

            4. Herby

              Just watch...

              "Person if Interest" (US TV show).

              Who is to say this isn't being done!

              Remember that at one time NSA meant "No Such Agency".

            5. Lost in Cyberspace


              CCTV can also provide circumstantial evidence, and make you a suspect in a crime you didn't commit, just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

              Don't tell me you have nothing to fear if you've done nothing wrong - if you're the main suspect it can fuck up your life.

        2. Jugernautilus

          That's Basilisk Stare

    3. LarsG

      The publicity might just jog someone's memory.

    4. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

      @solo: "NSA should put sat-video surveillance"

      Picking a nit: that would be NRO, not NSA...

    5. inverse137

      You watch too much TV.

  2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    I would have thought

    It made more sense to keep the image there - maybe with a note as to what people are looking at and the phone number of the local plod.

    Who knows - the next person looking on GE may actually have been in the area at the time and have their memory jogged.

    1. gc73

      Re: I would have thought

      Maybe it's just me, but if I saw someone getting shot, that would pretty much stay in my mind.

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: I would have thought

        Maybe you didn't see him being shot, but maybe you did see a blood-stained madman a few blocks away getting into a car.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I would have thought

        lol, yeah. I keep forgetting to pick up a prescription. I guess for yanks it's like that with murders. "Oh damn, really must remember to tell the police I saw that guy get shot. Nah, forget it, I'm sure the guy was standing his ground".

        1. Uncle Siggy

          Re: I would have thought

          ' I guess for yanks it's like that with murders. "Oh damn, really must remember to tell the police I saw that guy get shot. Nah, forget it, I'm sure the guy was standing his ground".'

          Nice generalization. We have one of our own; the British are friendly and honorable people. I am glad to see that at least one of you have proven that it is indeed a generalization.

    2. Vociferous

      Re: I would have thought

      If you google the image and have a look, it's not possible to tell there's a dead person on it, or what the police car is doing there, if you don't already know.

      1. Maharg

        Re: I would have thought @Vociferous

        After googleing the image I think it is completely possible to figure out what is going on, an obvious police car parked up, a couple of people in dark matching tops, trousers and hats a few meters away from the car in a group, (uniforms considering the proximity of the police car) some of them looking towards another person with the same dark matching uniform standing a few meters away facing a figure in non matching lighter coloured clothing lying sprawled awkwardly on the ground, in the next image from a different angle the person looking at the figure on the ground is now walking away towards the car leaving the figure in the same position.

  3. SeeingMole

    Forget about surveillance cameras.

    Soon in near future it'll be worldwide live satellite coverage and everything is recorded and anyone can look up the recordings anywhere.

    There will be no secrets left.

    1. poopypants


      It is your right to be paranoid if you so desire, but if you post something on this site you might want to first see if it passes the "Is this technologically achievable?" test.

      Let's say you wanted to spy on everyone in the US. The surface area of the US is 9.827 million km². If we assume that each satellite used has a previously unheard of resolution camera that makes it possible to identify individuals when focussed on an entire square kilometer of surface, then only some 9.8 million satellites will be required. Assuming economies of scale, the cost of building and launching a single satellite could possibly be brought down to $100 million.

      (Let's ignore running costs, or the time taken to launch almost ten million satellites.)

      So far, the total cost of universal satellite surveillance looks to be around the $10,000,000,000,000.

      That's ten trillion dollars

      Now think about the data transmission bandwidth required to transmit that information from each satellite. In order to recognise people (who presumably spend most of their time looking up at the sky) you would want a resolution of at least 1 million pixels per square metre of observed surface (probably a lot more, but let's be generous). That's 1000 x 1000 x 1000000 pixels. Per frame. Let's be generous and assume monochrome with only 256 levels of greyscale. If the satellite interprets real time loosely, and only takes one snap per second, that's still 1 TB/second. That's pretty ambitious. Current state of the art is probably exemplified by the MUOS satellite, built by Lockheed Martin, that can transmit 348 kilobytes per second.

      OK, so maybe they solve that with some amazing new laser comms device for satellites. One that has around 10 million satellites shining lasers at the ground. Seems reasonable. What do we do with all that data? We now have to store data that increased at the rate of 10 million TB / second.

      Time to buy shares in Western Digital, I think.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

        Re: @SeeingMole

        Good points. I do satellite image analysis as part of my research, and most satellite data are used (panchromatic) at 1m resolution (these are often down-sampled to 2m to reduce the compute and storage load by a factor of four). To process the entire land surface of the world (150 Tpixel at 1m, give or take) in a week is quite a challenge, logistically and computationally. The new generation of satellites can give 30cm resolution, so roughly ten times more data: 1.5 Exapixel (ouch). Recognizing anybody at 30 cm resolution is impossible. Better resolution may be available in military satellites, but normally higher resolution work is done by aerial imaging.

        What I do not understand in Google's reaction is why they do not apply some simple morphological filters to the image patch to remove the details. This is quite easy and fast. Using simple area-open-close, or levelling from markers you could remove the small features on the road without affecting the rest. Alternatively, edit out the data manually, and use image inpainting to stitch up the hole.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @SeeingMole

        Agreed, why on EARTH they would need complete picture, Google Glass will be giving them active bits.

    2. BongoJoe

      That'll be Bob Shaw's SLOW GLASS then.

  4. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    Similar case

    Guy lying on pavement with blood coming out of his head & police in attendance:

    Apparently it was reported to Google some time ago but they refused to remove it.

    1. Vociferous

      Re: Similar case

      To be honest I don't think it's Google's job to childproof/whitewash Streetview. It's a nice gesture to remove the picture in the article when the family requests it, but I don't really see it as something Google should be obliged to do.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Similar case

        Why are they not responsible for the content they display on their website, when they gathered the content themselves?

        1. Indolent Wretch

          Re: Similar case

          Why should they be forced to remove a picture of something in the public domain taken by them from something in the public domain and displayed on a website in the public domain unless somebody directly involved in the incident has made a valid request?


          Careful for what you wish for, the Internet is full, and rightly so, of content gathered by people and shown. Probably 90% of it offends somebody working at the Daily Mail and they'll think it should be taken down.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Similar case

        Hey, if you are, say a photographer, and takes a photo which identifies a man clearly, any publication/contest would need you to have a certificate from that person allowing you to use it.

        It is/was usual business until a big corp putting ad-posters on your face felt otherwise.

    2. Goldmember

      Re: Similar case

      It's strange they haven't removed that one. They removed this one pretty quickly after it was reported:

      I remember seeing one when they launched one of the South American countries, too (possibly Honduras).

  5. ecofeco Silver badge

    Inspire the police?

    Keep dreaming. At best it may shame them into trying harder due to the publicity, but inspire them out of any sense of morality?

    Keep dreaming.

  6. William Boyle

    Bringing it back home.

    I was born in Oakland, but my family and I lived in Richmond back in the late 1940's until we moved to Nebraska in 1951. I feel for this family - losing a son at such an age is a tragedy. That the police have not found the perpetrators of this crime is a travesty of justice. I agree with the victim's father that the Richmond police should make sure that this case does not go unclosed much longer.

  7. Graham 25

    Streisand effect in action

    Distressing as it would be for the family, perhaps if they hadn't made a big issue of it with the press, nobody would have come across it.

    No, I didn't go and look.

    1. Goldmember

      Re: Streisand effect in action

      "perhaps if they hadn't made a big issue of it with the press"

      People should read these articles properly before commenting. It was the press who alerted the family to the image. Excerpt from the article:

      "Last week his family was alerted to the Maps search result by local TV station KTVU: its reporters found the overhead pictures showed Kevin's body, a police patrol car, and what appears to be officers examining the scene."

  8. John Nieurzyla

    Google sh*te

    Google never finish what they promise when starting projects.

    Google Earth was supposed to map the earth, and then update these images every 3-4 years, well Philippines has never been completed, about 1/3 has been done, and most of these images are 10 to 13 years old.

    Now with all these terrible tragedies happening here, there are no maps of roads systems we can use, as they have never been mapped, They did update 3 sections after the recent typhoon, but two sections were of a different island which was not badly damaged, it was seriously over exposed and the majority of it was the ocean. Totally useless.

    But how many times has the US been scanned??

    And Bing maps are even less apparent....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Google sh*te

      I'd definitely stop paying the subscription fees then if you're not getting what you paid for.

  9. Rabbers

    Bloody Press

    Finding the picture is fine, telling Google, good - coverage of these kinds of issues, nice - telling the family first to get some kind of shock response, absolutely unforgivable.

    BTW, the Basalisk gun is SCORPION STARE I think.

  10. big_D Silver badge

    Real story:

    sicko TV station contacts family and causes distress instead of going straight to Google.

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