updated 8/18/2005 9:11:44 PM ET 2005-08-19T01:11:44

Two members of the Dutch parliament have questioned whether a free mapping program from Google Inc. may help would-be terrorists by providing aerial photos of potential targets.

Google Earth, launched this year, uses overlapping satellite photos to simulate the experience of flying from the stratosphere down to any spot on earth.

The photos come from a variety of sources. Though not all areas are highly detailed, some are so good that people can see details of their own homes, such as a pool or garden shed.

Lawmakers Frans Weekers and Aleid Wolfson read about the software in a Dutch newspaper article that raised the possibility that terrorists could use the program to study government buildings or nuclear reactors. So Weekers and Wolfson demanded answers from the administration.

Justice Ministry spokesman Wibbe Alkema said Wednesday the government was still crafting its response.

Google spokeswoman Catherine Betts said benefits of the software "far outweigh any negatives from potential abuse."

"Google Earth is built from information that is already available from both commercial and public sources," she said. "The same information is available to anyone who flies over or drives by a piece of property."

Similar fears in Australia were quelled after officials said they doubted the program posed any special threat to national safety.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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