Whether it be your own house or a famous landmark, Google maps can allow you to zoom in on almost anything. If you feel like it, you can even spy on the military, by looking at nuclear missile silos in North Dakota, naval bases in Russia or military installations in North Korea. It’s all there. Well most of it. You see a lot of stuff is actually censored at the request of governments.
A lot of Google’s earliest satellite imagery was fairly low resolution and washed out by bright colors. This is what happened to early shots of Minamitorishima Airfield in the Pacific. The Japanese island was once home to transmitters, used to communicate with nuclear submarines and later the Japanese maritime self-defense force. Now officially shut down higher resolution images provide a clearer picture but have some wondering why the buildings on the southern shore are suspiciously whitewashed. Perhaps it’s not as abandoned as we think it is.
Located in the remote South Pacific, is French Polynesia and the atoll of Mururoa. You’ve likely never heard of it and if you look it up on Google maps, all you’ll see is one-half of the island in ultra low resolution. Mururoa was the site of at least French nuclear weapons tests in the 20th century. These tests happened on and around the western and northern part of the atoll coincidentally, the parts that don’t have a decent resolution image. Some think this is done on purpose at the request of the French government.
Volkel Airbase Netherlands
We can excuse you for missing this Dutch airbase at first glance. After all, it is camouflage. In 2023, it was revealed that Volkel airbase was the home for 22 nuclear bombs. While the press printed the story about the weapons, the military moved of the airbase censored from Google maps for security reasons. Fittingly, rather than opt for black or pixilation, the method of censorship here was a healthy dose of military-style camouflage. The enemy will never see it now.
The Mexico-America Border
The whole issue of security along the U.S-Mexican border remains a pretty big talking point in case you haven’t noticed. While the politicians talk about walls and security, those of us who look up on the border will see parts like those of Hudspeth County, Texas have been blurred. Why? Well, no official explanation is out but the distortion of the Mexican side of the border could be to prevent potential drug runners and illegal aliens from identifying landmarks for the crossing. After all, trying to remember that you need to cross the blurry clump of trees probably isn’t going to help you much.
If you Google the Spanish coastal City of Roses and then look to the northeast, you’ll see a strange sight on the map. Up in the hilly terrain is an area that’s simply blacked out. We know roads run to the censored area and there are buildings up there but what is it? A hideaway for the world’s richest and biggest VIPs? Likely not. In actuality, given the location and the terrain it is likely that this is some sort of military or defense-related installation.
Just outside the town of Rosnay, France, is a facility that sticks out like a sore thumb on Google maps. Yet, zoom in to see what this large facility is and you’re greeted by large chunky pixels to provide no answers at all. Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out this is some sort of research or defense location. Its designed could leave you clueless. This is actually the HWU transmitter used by France to communicate with its nuclear submarine fleet. Strangely enough, the buildings and tall towers censored in the map are easily visible by anyone using Street View.
National Security Bureau, Taiwan
Everyone knows where Taiwan’s National Security Bureau building is. It’s just that we aren’t exactly sure what it looks like. The government has decided to censor just building itself thanks to pixilation. Sure, we don’t know what exactly the building looks like but it’s clearly there in Taipei and the label applied by Google clearly indicates what it is. It’s all kind of silly.
Portlaoise Prison, Ireland
If for some reason you happen to be looking at Portland’s prison in Ireland, you’ll notice the image of it on Google maps doesn’t really fit in that well with the surrounding land. Most noticeably, the lighting and color looks a bit off. There’s an easy answer for this, rather than censor the prison outright, Google just overlaid an older shot on top of the prison. Anyone looking to launch a prison-break won’t get any new information from the folks at Google.
The entire country of Israel is technically censored on Google maps. Sure you can zoom in relatively close but you’ll notice it never gets clear like other areas of the planet. How is this possible? Well, in 1997, congress passed an act that prohibited certain quality satellite imagery of Israel being made available for commercial use. However, this American decision only impacts American companies like Google. Other countries like Turkey, aren’t bound by this decision and can share all the high-resolution photos of Israel they please.
Close to the Dutch border of Germany’s the Geilenkirchen airbase. This NATO facility is home to surveillance an early warning aircraft vital to the security of the surrounding area. Strangely enough on Google maps, only the western end of the base is censored in brilliant camo-style color. Yet, on bing maps, the uncensored image shows nothing of any obvious significance. So what are they hiding at the western end of the runway? Your guess is as good as ours.
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