Google maintains that the degradation of map views for Sydney is the result of a “commercial issue” with a supplier. Meanwhile, others are speculating that the move is to coincide with the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit.
Users of Google Maps Australia could previously zoom in for satellite views as close as 25 metres above the ground in much of Sydney, but now maps of the CBD are blurry even when zoomed out to 300 metres. Where individual people, tree branches and garbage bin lids were once visible, they can now only be seen as vague outlines of objects.
The high-resolution satellite images, which were introduced this year, appear to have been replaced by lower quality versions for the Sydney CBD only, and not for suburbs like Bondi Beach and Point Piper.
The APEC Task-force and local police back up Google’s claims that this was a supplier glitch and not a request by authorities. Still, it will be interesting to see if Google is able to get the images back up before the September 2nd start date of the summit, or if they’ll conveniently wait until after the meeting.