Satellite Images Can Now Legally Show Your Mailbox

US lifts restrictions on resolution
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 17, 2014 9:29 AM CDT
In this file satellite image provided by Skybox Imaging and taken by SkySat-1 on Feb. 18, 2014, smoke rises from the site of anti-government protests, upper center, in Kiev, Ukraine.   (AP Photo/Skybox Imaging, File)

(Newser) – There's a reason the satellite images the public gets to see tend to be low on detail: It was illegal for them not to be. But the US government recently changed all that, removing a rule banning satellite images in which features smaller than 50 cm (about 20 inches) were visible, the BBC reports. The move comes thanks to an appeal from Digital Globe, a firm that already has the technology to show items as small as 12 inches, Wired explains, allowing it to show "key features such as manholes and mailboxes."

Digital Globe intends to launch a new satellite in August, and says more satellites will be launched to take advantage of the change. And they're not the only benefactors. Google recently bought a company called Skybox which, by 2016, plans to snap full images of the Earth at previously-illegal resolutions twice a day, the Wall Street Journal reports, envisioning a world where you can use Google Maps to check whether you left your porch light on. But not everyone is delighted by the change; one lawyer predicts "repercussions" from privacy advocates—and worries that there could be "national security considerations."

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