Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Export Controls and Imagery

Recently Ogle Earth wrote that aid workers in Sudan were prohibited from accessing Google Earth. The reason, Ogle Earth learned from an email exchange with Google,was that US export restrictions prohibited Google from allowing its Google Earth software from being downloaded in the Sudan. See: http://www.ogleearth.com/2007/04/oh_the_irony_go.html#comments

There are a numerous restrictions on the export of technology from the United States. These restrictions will vary depending upon the type of technology being exported, the country the technology is being exported to, as well as the individual(s) or group(s) that will be using the technology. The restrictions being imposed on Google appear to be the result of the country the technology is being exported to.

Thus far, there are relatively few restrictions on the export of imagery, as compared to software to view and manipulate the imagery. As a result, displaying most image data on a web site for third parties to access does not appear to be restricted. This is due in large part to a series of laws and regulations that have made the export of information, as compared to software, subject to much less restrictions. Thus far, the US government appears to have taken the position that imagery is considered information for purposes of export controls. However, the export of information is not without any limitations. The US government, primarily through the Department of Treasury, does have certain requirements before information, such as imagery, can be exported. Image vendors should be aware of these requirements before exporting or displaying data.

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