Alright so, if you need to go somewhere you don’t know, what do you do? Check Google Maps la of course right?
Well, that’s exactly what one of the Cilisos team did when presented with a KL address he didn’t know. So as usual he entered it into Google Maps, before using Street View – another of Google’s tech that let’s you look around as tho you were there in person. Eventually, he had ended up along the Kerinchi Link, when suddenly, he saw this:
In case you can’t tell, it seems as tho Google’s Street View has blurred out the entrance to a mysterious looking dirt road.
Now in case you didn’t know, there’s a history of various locations being blurred on Google Maps and Street View, from random houses to military bases and nuclear facilities. Of course, that in turn meant that we asked the question: *puts tinfoil hat on* OMG IS GOOGLE SECRETLY CENSORING MALAYSIAN LOCATIONS?!?!?!?!?!?!
Well first, before answering that, let’s take a look at that ‘secret location’ we stumbled upon that was blurred on Google Street View.
It’s actually just an entrance to… a TNB building?
When we found that blurred spot in Street View, of course we were gonna zoom out zoom in until we find out what it is and what it’s hiding. And then we found that it’s actually the entrance to TNB’s Pencawang Masuk Utama Bukit Kiara.
Like for real, check this out:
So what’s so secretive about a Pencawang Masuk Utama (PMU) anyway? Well a former TNB technician told us that it’s basically where power arrives after travelling from powerstations along the National Grid. Here, it gets converted to a lower voltage before being sent out to smaller distribution stations and substations around town. Doesn’t sound like it would’ve been a super secret location tho, right?
And here’s where it gets a lil weirder. Because Street View gets updated from time to time, we were actually able to go back in time to see the exact same place and it seems as tho this censor only happened quite recently:
Now we actually continued to look for more TNB stations and buildings that are blurred out on Street View, hoping to find a connection but unfortunately we couldn’t find another example. That is, until we were on Jalan Damansara and spotted this:
Could it be? Is that another TNB *secret* location? Well….. not exactly.
It’s actually Indah Water’s Damansara Regional Sewage Treatment Plant:
With two utility plants seemingly being randomly blurred on Google Street View, we asked Google Malaysia what’s going on, and here’s what they told us…
Google’s AI blurred these places…. by accident (lol)
One thing we should perhaps point out first is that the Malaysian govt apparently doesn’t actually censor any locations on Google (well, according to them anyway). Back in 2007, when a certain Datuk Seri Najib Razak was still the Defence Minister, he had this to say when asked about whether Malaysia would blur locations of our military facilities on Google Earth:
“The difference in, or lack of, pixelation of images of the military facilities compared to the surrounding areas will make it easy for visual identification, ” – Najib Razak, then-Defence Minister, as quoted by NST
It’s basically like the Streisand effect; by attempting to hide our top secret locations, it may have the unintended result of making it more obvious or publicised. The most famous example of this is of course, singer Barbra Streisand, who tried to sue a photographer for USD50 million in 2003.
The photographer had taken over 12,000 photos of the California coastline, and among those photos was one was Streisand’s house. The thing is, before she sued, that photo had only been downloaded six times before, with two of those downloads being Streisand’s own lawyers. After news of the court case tho, people began downloading the photo of her house like crazy, with almost half a million views in just the following month.
Going back to our blurred locations tho, now that we’ve ruled out the theory that is was a secret govt location, we got in touch with Google Malaysia to ask about these seeming randomly blurred locations. According to them, the randomly blurred spots appear to be an error on their part.
“Street View uses blurring technology that is designed to blur identifiable faces and license plates so they can’t be identified. The intention is to provide a tool that people can trust to protect their privacy and security online.
But with any technology, it isn’t perfect and after an internal review of the screenshots you’ve sent across, it appears that we didn’t get it right; the blurring tech made a mistake and blurred the signages at those points,” – Nadia, Google Malaysia Comms
TLDR: Google’s tech did a boo-boo.
With that being said, Nadia did also tell us that while Street View only ever takes images of public locations – that is to say, anything that you or us could see by going down the same street – you could still submit a request to blur stuff on Street View. You can click here or here for more details, but essentially if Google Street View contains…
- Your face
- Your home
- Any identifying information
- Inappropriate content (violence, child endangerment, explicit content, etc)
…you can submit a request to them by hitting on the ‘Report a problem’ tool on their site.
In fact, we could perhaps just chalk this down as another one of those ‘weird Google Earth/Maps/Street View moments’. There’s so many of those in fact that there’s even a website dedicated to listing out the ones that they’ve found.
We’ll leave you with our Ciliboss’ personal favourite – Japanese Bird People.