Google has always tried to keep a very open policy with the general public, but it can’t always be entirely forthcoming, as is the case with Google Maps. Google has very little say in what gets censored and what doesn’t, be it for personal privacy or national security.
Finding censored objects on Google Maps isn’t the easiest task, as most look like imaging anomalies, rather than some big black bar with “CENSORED” written in large text.
But does Google Maps really need to be censored? In the era of open and available information, nobody likes to be left in the dark, but in the case of Google Maps and other aerial photographs, is there really much need to censor anything? Air bases and military installations certainly have the argument of national security, but they really shouldn’t have their secret projects just sitting out in the open. Perhaps just as interesting as the things being censored on Google Maps are the things that used to be censored (but that’s a whole other story).
The Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland
Many censored areas on Google Maps look like low res photos, possibly due to overhead flight restrictions. Aberdeen’s an example of one of these areas. Take a look at the northernmost edge; you’ll see that the area has specifically been left at an extremely low resolution, and likely passed over with a blur filter.
Camp Buckner Military Academy
Another military base, it comes as no surprise that Camp Buckner is also censored. We certainly wouldn’t want some malcontent foreign sovereignty invading our esteemed West Point Academy through use of Google Maps.
Huis ten Bosch, the Dutch Royal Family
Prevalent public figures like their privacy, both for their safety and for their peace of mind. Considering that until somewhat recently, the White House was censored on Google Maps, it’s not that surprising that Dutch royalty like a bit of privacy as well.
Soestdijk Palace, Netherlands
Here's another Dutch royal residence. Huis ten Bosch is lightly pixelated, but this time they went all out. Ironically, Soestdijk Palace is actually open to the public and more of a historical landmark than a current royal residence.
Elmira Correctional Facility
You don't really think of convicted felons as the type to deserve a lot of privacy, but the censorship of the Elmira Maximum Security Prison isn't so much for the prisoners' benefit but rather their containment. With high res images, Google Maps would be a good resource to learn about the facility's rooftop ventilation.
NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen, Germany
Germany has a censored NATO base as well, except for whatever reason; this one only seems to be a little light on the censoring. In fact, it appears that a tiny portion of the runway is the only thing that's censored here.
Szazhalombatta Oil Refinery, Hungary
Hungary seems to have a bit less regard for tact when it comes to censoring things. Instead of light pixelization or blurring, they just colour everything green. At least it matches the surrounding area to an extent.
Martonvasar Substation, Hungary
Hungary also seems to be a bit more liberal with the pen of censorship. Even structures like your run of the mill power substation are censored. Other substations all over Hungary are censored as well, whether they're in the middle of a city, or in the middle of nowhere, like this one.
Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory and GE Global Research Center
Years ago, KAPL and GE joined forces in the pursuit of nuclear and atomic energies. Be it to conceal government conspiracies or protect corporate assets, both facilities appear to have been blurred considerably.
Mobil Oil Corporation in Buffalo
We have to wonder what a giant corporation like Mobil might have to hide at its facility in Buffalo. Maybe this has something to do with the soaring gas prices we're seeing lately. Unblur your buildings or lower the gas prices Mobil! Your choice. Actually, just lower gas prices. We don't care about your blurry buildings.
Taiwan's National Security Bureau Headquarters
Taiwan doesn't play coy when it comes to censoring sensitive government facilities. Some countries, like Malaysia, prefer not to disclose sensitive locations by censoring them, granted, the National Security Bureau isn't exactly in a secret location to begin with.
NATO C3 Agency, in the Netherlands
Another censorship courtesy of the Dutch government, though this one is actually pretty reasonable. You don't want too many prying eyes learning detailed facts about the layout of an important NATO facility.
Decommissioned NATO Ammo Depot
Just south of the NATO base in Oeiras is a former NATO ammunition depot. You can actually see the depot in fairly decent detail, but as soon as you zoom in too far, the entire 18sqkm region is covered by huge pixelated block.
NATO Base Joint Command- Atlantic in Oeiras Portugal
It may not look censored at first glance, but check out that white building with the multi-colored outline that has clearly been cut from the image. Then try zooming in a bit closer to find a super pixelated giant block covering the entire base.
All of North Korea
Satellite imagery of North Korea is actually fine. The interesting bit is the map layout, interesting in that there is none. If you zoom in, you can clearly see roads, cities, and buildings, but none are labelled. Perhaps Google doesn't approve of the country's hostile communist nature.
Paleis Noordeinde, Netherlands
As the Dutch Queen's work office, so to speak, it's not all that surprising that it would get censored. What's interesting is the seemingly precise work put into pixelating just this one building, following along its perimeter.
Seabrook Nuclear Power Station, New York
Hungary isn't the only one who thinks electric facilities are worth hiding. The US does it too, as is the case with the Seabrook Nuclear plant in New Hampshire. Of course, the US government is likely censoring it because of its nuclear nature, rather than simply because it provides power.
Syracuse Hancock International Airport
As a civil airport, open for public transport, it's somewhat surprising that Syracuse Hancock International would be censored on Google Maps, but because it's also a military facility, it is certainly justified. Maybe it's because of that Pentagon shaped Best Western.