The latest Google Earth 3D Maps update has accidentally exposed Taiwan’s most secret military bases to the public — and its adversaries. Some of the locations available in full three-dimensional detail include a facility which houses Patriot missiles, and the country’s National Security Bureau, according to a report from The South China Morning Post.
The update was originally meant to show public locations in Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan, and Taichung, and officials in Taiwan formed a task force to work with Google to blur out the new maps. Currently, the layout of the exposed bases and types of mobile missile launchers are all still visible. It is being reported that the Taiwanese military will also “take examinations” to help prevent this from happening again. That includes working to camouflage other military bases and structures across the country.
While the exposure looks like a major error, officials hint there is little cause for concern among Taiwanese, and that there is no need to panic. “Actually, the confidential parts are all inside the structures which would be highly difficult to expose through the 3D maps,” said Taiwan’s Defence Minister Yen Te-fa to The South China Morning Post.
Taiwan and Google have had a somewhat checkered history when it comes to this type of mapping data. Previously in 2016, Taiwan asked Google to censor a military base on Taiping Island in the South China Sea. The Taiwanese government also had issues with Apple Maps when it exposed another military installation in Hsinchu.
Government officials here in the United States have had similar concerns over mapping data. Citing an ability to show locations and routes on The Global Heat Map, the Pentagon restricted fitness trackers and other geolocators in high-risk areas. Before that, the Pentagon also tightened up its restrictions and put in place new rules barring cell phone use in areas where sensitive topics are being discussed.
Despite the fact that it may expose military installations, Google Earth remains one of the most popular apps available for download on the internet. It has been downloaded more than one billion times and you can use it as a virtual tour guide to check out surreal scenes from across the globe from the comfort of your own living room.