Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam expressed concern Saturday about a free mapping program from Google Inc., warning it could help terrorists by providing satellite photos of potential targets.
Google Earth, an Internet site launched in June this year, allows users to access overlapping satellite photos. Although not all areas are highly detailed, some images are very high resolution, and some show sensitive locations in various countries.
At a meeting of top police officials in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, Kalam said he worried that "developing countries, which are already in danger of terrorist attacks, have been singularly chosen" for providing high resolution images of their sites.
The governments of South Korea and Thailand and lawmakers in the Netherlands have expressed similar concerns.
South Korean newspapers said Google Earth provides images of the presidential Blue House and military bases in the country, which remains technically at war with communist North Korea. The North's main nuclear facility at Yongbyon is among sites in that country displayed on the service.
The Google site contains clear aerial photos of India's parliament building, the president's house and surrounding government offices in New Delhi. There are also some clear shots of Indian defense establishments.
Officials at Mountain View, Calif.-based Google did not immediately return a phone call and e-mail seeking comment.
Responding in August to the concerns of two Dutch lawmakers, Google spokeswoman Catherine Betts noted the software uses information already available from public sources and said its benefits "far outweigh any negatives from potential abuse."
Kalam, a scientist who guided India's missile program before becaming president, called for new laws to restrain dissemination of such material. He said existing laws in some countries regarding spatial observations of their territory and the United Nations' recommendations on the practice are inadequate.