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July 24, 2017

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No law to ban satellite photos that expose secret military posts: MND

There will be no ban on commercial satellites taking pictures of confidential military installations, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said yesterday amid reports that the latest smartphone mapping technology has exposed a secret radar station in northern Taiwan, a development that could jeopardize national security.

The public can now view many such satellite images of Taiwan's air bases and radar stations because of this technology, he said. Similar cases have been found in the United States, Europe, Mainland China and Russia.

However, currently there is no law banning commercial satellites from taking such photos, Luo noted.

The military spokesman made the comments in response to a Chinese-language Liberty Times report yesterday which quoted unidentified iPhone users saying that the smartphone's latest mapping service system has exposed the location of a radar station in northern Hsinchu County.

The station, which houses the PAVE PAWS early warning radar system and is a joint cooperation project between Taiwan's military and its U.S. counterpart, is not expected to be operational until 2013.

But the latest iOS 6 map application has made the top-secret station, designed for missile warning and space surveillance purposes, viewable to the general public — a development which could pose a threat to the national security, the report said.

Speaking during yesterday's news briefing, Luo said similar incidents have happened before. The Google Maps site exposed the locations of many of Taiwan's military bases when it first launched, he said.

The MND later informed Google to make adjustments for national security reason.

As a contingency measure, the U.S.-based company later decided to intentionally blur satellite images that are considered security sensitive, including those featuring military installations and facilities, he said.

"We will ask Apple to do so same in the future," he noted.

Luo pledged that the military will beef up its camouflaging of key military installations to prevent such future exposure of these sites.

But the more important task at hand for the military is to continue to strengthen its measures to prevent the leakage of confidential military data, he added.

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