Google Maps blurs reality at world conference

Google Maps has come under scrutiny after aerial photography of Sydney Central suddenly became blurry – just weeks before world leaders descend on the city.

The dip in image quality has seen areas previously observable down to branches and dustbin lids reduced to a comparative blur.

The area will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit on September 2, with 21 world leaders – including George Bush and Hu Jintao – in attendance. More than 5,000 police and army officers have been drafted to maintain security in the city, but according to Google Australia Spokesman Rob Shilkin, the downgrade “has absolutely nothing to do with APEC”.

“We’re re-sourcing our imagery for parts of Sydney as a result of a commercial issue with one of our suppliers, so some of the highest-res images have been temporarily replaced,” he insists.

This is not the first claim of censorship levelled at Google Maps. The service came under fire in June when areas of Washington DC’s political district were left in low-resolution after the company updated its satellite maps of the city.

In January, some commentators alleged that imagery of British bases in Iraq dating from 2005 were replaced with images from 2002 after requests from the British military.

A section of the Dutch village of Noordwijk, headquarterd of the European Space Research and Technology Centre remains censored.

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