Google Earth is no longer the biggest concern of security agencies. A bigger security threat posed by online mapping is lurking on the Internet.
<b1> It is called Wikimapia. The website, which its promoters claim "is inspired by Wikipedia", combines high resolution satellite and mapping imagery created by Google Maps and the easy interactivity of Wikipedia.
Simply put, it means users can go to wikimapia.org, identify locations on the high-resolution maps there and enter more information about the locations. The information gets automatically stored on the maps. The site has already added four million locations since it was created in May 2006. The site can be accessed in 64 languages and a user does not need to be tech-savvy to access all the information available (unlike on Google Earth).
"Any person can go and post any kind of information about the installations in our country and there is very little we can do about it," a senior official of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) told HT. He added: "It is next to impossible to catch such people, but the risk they pose is very big."
India is badly affected: all major installations, including Rashtrapati Bhavan, air force airfields, army installations and headquarters and nuclear research centres are plotted on the site. In certain cases, users have identified defence installations, leaving additional information. HT emailed queries to the site's creator, Alexandre Koriakine, but did not get a response. However, on the site's blog, he has claimed an overwhelming response from Indian users.
Dr R Siva Kumar, head of the task force on National Spatial Data Infrastrucuture Division under the Ministry of Science and Technology, made aware of the site by HT, said: "Such sites pose problems. The government will take steps to safeguard national interest."