Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Shura Council’s Committee for Transport, Communication and Information Technology has revealed that the Saudi Arabian government has formed a governmental team made up of 3 governmental agencies to monitor the maps offered by Google Earth and ensure that these do not include images of military sites or other sensitive areas.
This was revealed after national security become a subject of concern to a number of Shura Council deputies, and they expressed fears that satellite imaging of the earth could be used to transgress Saudi Arabia’s national security.
During the annual meeting to discuss the yearly Committee for Transport, Communication and Information Technology report, Shura Council deputy Abdul-Rahman al-Atawi called for “a special system to protect…privacy to be put in place.” He justified his demand for this system by saying that it is in order to ensure that intelligence agencies and terrorist groups do not utilize sensitive satellite imagery [in their operations].
However the Shura Council dropped this recommendation after listening to the Committee for Transport, Communication and Information Technology which explained at length that the Google Corporation has a special agreement on such matters, and that they are very careful not to infringe upon privacy.
The Shura Council’s Committee for Transport, Communication and Information Technology dispelled the fears of the Shura Council with regards to the existing arrangements surrounding privacy and national security.
Despite this, the Saudi government is not convinced that its sensitive sites are safe from satellite imagery, therefore – according to officials in the Committee for Transport, Communication and Information Technology– a governmental team made up of personnel from Military Survey, the Interior Ministry, and the Committee for Transport, Communication and Information Technology has been entrusted with the task of specifically looking through Google Earth to ensure that sensitive Saudi Arabian sites are not revealed and that Saudi national security is maintained.
This is something that has caused concern among those who support internet freedom, particularly after one Shura Council deputy called for internet regulation in Saudi Arabia to be tightened and for internet content to be restricted. However the Shura Council’s Committee for Transport, Communication and Information Technology stressed that this is something that would place Saudi Arabia in an embarrassing position internationally.
The Committee for Transport, Communication and Information Technology also revealed that the issue of regulating private information by tightening control over illegitimate internet content is something that will be further investigated, and that a commission within the Council of Minister’s Bureau of Experts is studying this at the request of Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz.