Google Offers Satellite Maps

Google’s map service is now including free access to Keyhole satellite photos.

Google unveils satellite map feature (CNN – AP)

Online search engine leader Google Inc. has unveiled a new feature that will enable its users to zoom in on homes and businesses using satellite images, an advance that may raise privacy concerns as well as intensify the competitive pressures on its rivals. The satellite technology, which Google began offering late Monday at GoogleMaps, is part of the package that the Mountain View-based company acquired when it bought digital map maker Keyhole Corp. for an undisclosed amount nearly six months ago.

This marks the first time since the deal closed that Google has offered free access to Keyhole’s high-tech maps through its search engine. Users previously had to pay $29.95 to download a version of Keyhole’s basic software package. A more traditional map will continue to be the first choice served up by Google’s search engine. Users will have the option of retrieving a satellite picture by clicking on a button. The satellite maps could unnerve some people, even as the technology impresses others. That’s because the Keyhole technology is designed to provide close-up perspective of specific addresses.


There is little reason for people to be paranoid about the satellite maps because the images generally are six to 12 months old, said John Hanke, Keyhole’s general manager. “And it’s not like you are going to be able to read a license plate on a car or see what an individual was doing when a particular image was taken,” he said.

Google believes most people will like the convenience of generating a satellite image with a few clicks of a computer mouse. The company envisions people using the service as a way to scout a hotel’s proximity to the beach for a possible vacation or size up the neighborhood where an apartment is for rent.

An interesting development although, frankly, not one I think I’d find useful.

FILED UNDER: Science & Technology, Uncategorized, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    This has been available on Microsoft’s Terra Server for awhile now.

  2. Kent says:

    Who cares if it’s useful. It’s way cool.

  3. McGehee says:

    I wasted several hours last night exploring how cool Google’s map/sat thingie is. But in retrospect I’m not sure it’s better than TerraServer, which tells you up front when the photos were taken, and in many cases gives you a choice of which set of photos to look at.

  4. RE Gardner says:

    If they roll out coverage beyond the USA and Canada, this might be something, but for now, is better since it has higher resolution aerial photos of the USA (except the White House and Congress – and Area 51). The only Google advantage I see is that it seems to cover Canada too, I got Vancouver, BC to come up.

  5. Mike says:

    These guys (here: seem to be doing a siteseeing tour of the states using the satellite images – they’ve got some really cool pics up (including the most planes I’ve ever seen!)