Google has announced
it will offer its Google Earth mapping service, Picasa photo service,
and Chrome web browser for download in Iran for the first time,
following the Obama administration's decision in March to relax
restrictions on exports of online services and software to Iran.
Google will continue to block IP addresses associated with the Iranian
In explaining to The Guardian
how Google products could benefit free expression, Google spokesman Scott Rubin mentioned the way Google Earth's satellite imagery was used in Sudan to
highlight areas of unrest during elections.
He also told The BBC
that "in a country with a history of government surveillance it is
useful having a browser [like Chrome] that can't easily be hacked."
What do others make of the development?
- This Story Begins in 2009, explains
Jessica Guynn at the LA Times. "The push to make online services
available for download in Iran got underway after protests over the
disputed presidential election in 2009 there drew attention to the
reach and power of digital services such as Facebook and Twitter," she
says, adding that these social networking sites-along with other services like Google-owned YouTube and Gmail--have since
been blocked by the Iranian regime. Guynn continues, "Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has
said Internet freedom is a fundamental part of American foreign policy,
with videos and blog posts fueling dissent in politically repressive
- Note What Google's Not
Exporting, observes Jemima Kiss at The Guardian. Rubin, the Google spokesman, explains that Google Talk won't be made available in Iran
because the company isn't confident it can prevent the government from
monitoring chats and provide dissidents with the privacy and security they're seeking. Kiss notes that Picasa, Google Earth, and Chrome are
not direct communication tools.
- Google Has Consistently Challenged
Iran, notes The BBC: "Google's chief executive Eric Schmidt was vocal in
his condemnation of the Iranian government and its decision to impose
media blackouts in reaction to the protests. At the time Google rolled
out Farsi language tools to aid communication."
- I Don't Buy Google's Lofty Rhetoric, states Kelly Fiveash at The Register, describing the move thus: "The Mountain View Chocolate Factory followed its commitment-to-sanctions message with more sugar-coating about 'choice', 'freedom' and 'power' for Iranians, the world, and--perhaps most importantly-- Google."