Google New OrleansLast Friday, people started to notice that Google replaced the satellite imagery of New Orleans with those taken before hurricane Katrina had devastated the city. Both blogs and news sites alike were claiming that Google was trying to rewrite the history of what happened in New Orleans. Here is what Google’s response was:

Several months later, in September 2006, the storm imagery was replaced with pre-Katrina aerial photography of much higher resolution as part of a regular series of global data enhancements. We continued to make available the Katrina imagery, and associated overlays such as damage assessments and Red Cross shelters, on a dedicated site ( Our goal throughout has been to produce a global earth database of the best quality — accounting for timeliness, resolution, cloud cover, light conditions, and color balancing.

Given that the changes that affected New Orleans happened many months ago, we were a bit surprised by some of these recent comments. Nevertheless, we recognize the increasingly important role that imagery is coming to play in the public discourse, and so we’re happy to say that we have been able to expedite the processing of recent (2006) aerial photography for the Gulf Coast area (already in process for an upcoming release) that is equal in resolution to the data it is replacing. That new data was published in Google Earth and Google Maps on Sunday evening.

Make no mistake, this wasn’t any effort on our part to rewrite history. But it looks like this April Fool’s joke was on us.

So apparently they reverted to pre-Katrina imagery about 7–months ago with the intent of providing higher resolution satellite maps than what was previously available. I wasn’t as shocked when I heard about this especially compared to some people who were claiming this was a conspiracy between Google and the New Orleans government. I had a good feeling that wasn’t the case, but I guess we never really know.

Source: Google Blog