Google as Pentagon contractor

Google’s emergence as a major defense contractor was underscored last week when the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency tweaked its Aug. 20 announcement of a sole-source contract to the search giant for visualization services.

The announcement, reported by Fox News, prompted a Microsoft protest that its Bing Map Server could do the job. The NGA then changed the wording of the announcement–without really changing its meaning. The revised NGA announcement, noted NextGov, “went to great lengths to clarify that only Google Earth meets it requirements.”

The amount of the NGA contract was not disclosed.

The revised announcement shows how the government’s geospatial intelligence capabilities are inextricably linked to Google Earth.

As Fox News’ James Rosen noted:

“Google Earth came into being only after Google’s 2004 acquisition of Keyhole, a company that was in part funded by In-Q-Tel, the venture capital firm run by the CIA. And those firms, along with Microsoft, tend to purchase their aerial imagery principally from two other companies: DigitalGlobe and GeoEye. Those firms on Aug, 6 received federal contracts worth close to $4 billion each, in order to collaborate on a next-generation satellite that can deliver even more detailed imagery — money that was awarded by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.”

Will Google’s dependence on secret Pentagon contracts affect its corporate decision-making? How could it not?

Published by Margot Williams

Margot Williams has more than two decades of experience in roles as investigative researcher, research editor, database editor, technology trainer and library director at The New York Times, The Washington Post, Gannett newspapers and Time Warner. She was lead researcher on two Pulitzer Prize-winning teams at The Washington Post for reporting on terrorism in 2002 and for an investigation of the use of deadly force by the District of Columbia police in 1999. Margot is the co-author of “Great Scouts! CyberGuides for Subject Searching on the Web” (Cyberage Books, 1999) and contributed to the “Networkings” column in The Washington Post for five years.

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