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A Google Earth Canary Islands Conspiracy?

In late July Google updated the satellite imagery of the Canary Islands in both Google Earth and Google Maps. The former satellite images from 2005 and 2006 were replaced by images belonging to the Canary public company Grafcan. While some applauded the partnership of Google with a local mapping company, others became immediately suspicious that the replacement images were at least six years old, leaving them to conclude that a government conspiracy was at hand in order to attract more tourists by removing unsightly, recent developments.

As Manuel Almeida lays it all out (ES):

The Green Party has denounced an agreement between the Government of the Canary Islands, through the public company Grafcan (Cartográfica de Canarias) and Google so that images of the archipelago shown on Google Earth – at least those of especially relevant to the tourist market – be retrograded from the current 2006 images to those taken in the period of 1996 – 2000. In other words, the Executive [branch] of the government and Google have decided to substitute the current images of the islands for others from at least six years ago so that some of the development abuses over the past few years do not appear. That way the tourist is “liberated” from such horrors as hotels at the shoreline, a rotary in the interior of a crater, or clear environmental degradation favoring one or another type of urbanization.

canary google earth

On the left, the image of Costa Calma (Fuerteventura) that Google Earth previously offered. On the right, the same zone according to Google Earth on July 18. As can be observed, the buildings at the foot of the beach have mysteriously disappeared in the most “recent” image. (source: Canary Green Party)

The Green Party's denouncement is based on a series of posts from Territorios Red that describe with precision some of the most important “changes” in the images on the island of Tenerife. The “Greens” have added some more images from Fuerteventura and assure that some military installations on Gran Canary Island have been eliminated.

After the publication of the news in some media outlets on the archipelago, the government of the Canaries and Grafcan have passed all responsibility onto Google although it is not understood what interest the company could have in offering “strategic” images of the island in place of current ones. If we take into account that a representative of Google traveled to the archipelago a year ago and maintained close contacts with the regional government, it all points to a shameful agreement that says nothing good about the transparency of the executive branch nor in the trustworthiness of Google Earth. According to Canarias Ahora, the agreement was tacitly recognized by Isabel Aguilera, head of Google Spain, as having only “good intentions”.

Mentiras, Malditas Mentiras y Estadísticas also believes a conspiracy is at hand (ES):

… el gobierno de Canarias censura Google Earth para que no se vean los desmanes urbanísticos mediante las mañas de una empresa pública, que ha logrado retirar la imagen más actual de determinadas zonas para mostrar otra de hace seis años. Y sí, viendo como construyen esos malditos, seis años son una diferencia considerable.

… the Canary government censored Google Earth using a public company so that the excesses of urban planning cannot be seen. They were able to take down the most recent photos of certain areas in order to show images from six years ago. And yes, given how fast these bloody people develop, six years is a considerable difference.

But not everyone is so convinced. One commenter on Manuel Almeida's post writes (ES):

A los pocos días de salir la noticia el gerente de Grafcan explico por la tele que en los próximos meses se van a actualizar la imágenes con fecha 2005-2006. Creo que los verdes han sacado una noticia de donde no la hay. No tendría sentido que por ejemplo el aeropuerto de los Rodeos aparezcan en construcción pq sería una mala imagen para los extranjeros, no creen???. Personalmente creo que había zonas que no se veían absolutamente nada y ahora se ven mucho mejor. Es cierto que las fechas son antiguas pero yo prefiero dar un voto de confianza y ver como hacen las próxima actualización.

A few days after the story was reported, the manager of Grafcan explained on TV that they are going to update the images to the 2005-2006 period. I think that the Green Party has tried to create a news story where none existed. It wouldn't make sense, for example, that the Rodeos Airport appear to be under construction because it would be a bad image for the foreigners, don't you think? Personally, I think that before there had been zones where absolutely nothing could be seen and now it's much more visible. It's true that the dates are old, but I prefer to give a vote of confidence and see how they do the next update.

Victor R. Ruiz sees both good and bad (ES) in the changes to both Google Earth and Google Maps:

Hace algunos días había visto la actualización de las islas en Google Maps, la versión web de Google Earth. En realidad, en general, me había quedado con buena impresión por tres puntos destacables: el Gobierno de Canarias parece que se pone las pilas tecnológicas y llega a un acuerdo con Google para la actualización de los mapas utilizando la cartografía de Grafcan; la superficie cubierta es mucho mayor (zonas como el norte de Gran Canaria estaban en muy baja resolución y para colmo bajo nubes); y la resolución de las nuevas imágenes eran significativamente mejores. Por contra, me llamó mucho la atención que los colores estuvieran claramente distorsionados.

A few days ago I noticed the update of the [Canary] Islands in Google Maps, the web version of Google Earth. In reality, in general, I was left with a good impression for three underscored reasons: the Canary government got its technological act together and arrived at an agreement with google to update the maps using the cartography of Grafcan; the surface coverage is much greater (zones like the north of Grand Canary had been in very low resolution and filled with clouds); and the resolution of the new images were significantly improved. On the other hand, it caught my attention that the colors were clearly distorted.

Responding to a story by journalist Julio Cruz (ES), implicating the Canary government, Ruiz writes:

Creo que las nuevas fotografías tienen deficiencia cromática, pero también tiene mayor resolución. Tampoco me parece que haya ninguna evidencia de que el Gobierno de Canarias haya tratado de «esconder al mundo las numerosas vergüenzas urbanísticas y destrozos que, en contra de los que se dice desde el gobierno afectan a las islas». Y aunque es de aplaudir su acuerdo con Google, lo que sí debería hacer de forma inmediata el gobierno es publicar en Internet, de forma gratuita, todas las imágenes de las islas en poder de la empresa pública Grafcan, independientemente de su acuerdo con Google.

I think that the new photographs have a chromatic deficiency, but also better resolution. I don't see any evidence that the Canary Government has “tried to hide from the world its numerous, embarrassing developments and destruction that affects the islands.” And although [Grafcan's] partnership with Google should be applauded, the government should immediately – and freely – publish all of the Grafcan's images of the island, independent of their agreement with Google.

10 comments

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  • Pingback: o0p.org »

    […] A Google Earth Canary Islands Conspiracy? A Google Earth Canary Islands Conspiracy? In late July Google updated the satellite imagery of the Canary Islands in both Google Earth and Google Maps. The former satellite images from 2005 and 2006 were replaced by images belonging to the Canary public company Grafcan. While some applauded […] […]

  • I’m a little bit afraid, of what the future and Google will bring to all of us…

  • empresas

    Yo realmente no creo que el municipio de Tenerife sea tan inteligente para conspirar de esta manera… es darles demasiado crédito: pensar que el ayuntamiento coordina estrechamente con las empresas turísticas e inmobiliarias para hacer una cosa así no tiene mucho sentido.
    Saludos

  • mohammad

    i found these web page during my search for another conspiracy i suspect from the egyptian government
    ..as i noticed that Cairo,Egypt image was updated during the last update in july or aufust i think..i got very excited about it and saved many images of my place and other places..but in about 2 weeks period ..when i told my friends about it..they all laughed at me..the surprice was when i get to google to check the updates i was shoked to see a starnge croping and old iamagery of the area all over cairo and new cairo suburbans…
    very unusual….mysterious thing..if anyone could save me from losing my mind please mail me..

  • […] Global Voices Online » A Google Earth Canary Islands Conspiracy? […]

  • […] A Google Earth Canary Islands Conspiracy? Global Voices Online » A Google Earth Canary Islands Conspiracy? […]

  • steve lang

    Volcanco-eruption-gaint land slide- water displacement-tsunmai from Maine to the tip of south america thats why the photos have been retouched one hundred to three hundred foot wave. One to five mile completely wiped out

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