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The new Google Earth lacks some important tools for researchers

Added by David Hill on April 22 2017, at 5:53 am
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  • The world is right in the palm of your smartphone-holding hand. Google Earth rolled out a new version of its venerable globe this week, first for Chrome and Android, and later for other browsers and iOS. It is a gentler, lighter Google Earth, a slicked-down tool for exploring and sharing beautiful snippets of the world. Unfortunately, it’s also missing all the niche features that Google Earth an invaluable tool for reporters and investigators across the world for over a decade.


    “I first started using Google Earth when it launched and I was a researcher in Seoul,” said Melissa Hanham, who now works as a researcher at the James Martin Center for nonproliferation studies. “At the time I heard about a location where North Korea had launched a missile, and all I knew was it was near a town of Musudan Ri. So I opened Google Earth, I found the town, and just started searching all around until I found the missile pad, and that’s when I became a Google Earth evangelist.”


    Hanham now has a formal relationship with Google Earth. While it’s not a paid connection, she is a member of the Google Earth outreach trainer’s network, providing instruction and creating training materials. Google works with nonprofits—like the World Wildlife Fund—that aim to do good with satellite imagery, and it appears to be a mutually beneficial relationship. Google gets to tell compelling stories about the work people do with its utility, and the NGOs get to request more and better imagery so they can do better work.


    Google Earth maintains a site devoted to case studies of nonprofits using the technology for good, like mapping slums in India or tracking deforestation in Indonesia, which may have required a special eye towards posting cloud-free satellite images.


     


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