Only days after Google joined up with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to map the conflict in Darfur, the US Treasury has apparently banned access to images from Google Earth in Sudan as part of its ongoing export controls and economic sanctions against the country.
The Treasury states that “except for information or informational materials and donated articles intended to relieve human suffering, such as food, clothing and medicine, and the licensed export of agricultural commodities… no goods, technology, or services may be exported from the United States to Sudan”.
The US Bureau of Industry prohibits the export of software to Sudan, unless it is pre-loaded onto a ‘commodity’ such as a mobile phone or computer. As Google Earth is hosted in the United States, downloading the software in Sudan is also subject to these restrictions.
However, Stefan Geens of the Ogle Earth blog notes that the internet has the tools to circumvent this ban – for example, through proxy servers and peer-to-peer networks. Perhaps more importantly, Stefan raises a pertinent question: where does ‘information’ end and ‘software’ begin?