Mashable’s attention-seeking and conspiratorial headline about Apple’s Data Center and Google Earth

Thu, Jun 2, 2011


As Apple’s massive data center in Maiden, North Carolina ramps up for operations, the huge structure is now visible in its current state via Google Maps and Google Earth. Of course, the images available via Google aren’t entirely new since video flybys of the property, perhaps unauthorized, have been floating around for a while now.

Oddly enough, some have hinted at some sort of conspiracy theory to explain why it took Google so long to show updated imagery of the data center in question. This despite the fact that Google’s satellite images are updated periodically and sometimes not all that often. To wit, I remember showing a friend a photo of his house via Google Earth only to have him explain that the photo was over 7 months old since it contained photos of trees that had been chopped down long ago.

Pretty basic, right?

Well, that’s unless  you’re a site like Mashable which shamelessly invoked an attention grabbing headline out of thin air to attract pageviews for what can only be described as a completely fabricated non-story. Though to be fair, the speculation first originated with CNN tech columnist Philip Elmer-Dewwitt.

In a post titled “Did Google Hide Apple’s Data Center On Its Satellite Images?”, Sarah Kessler writes:

After the iCloud pre-announcement, Elmer-Dewitt checked the address again on Google Earth — something he says he did two weeks before, only to find green farms. This time the satellite image included Apple’s massive building, which has little employee parking and a single road leading in and out. As suspected since 2009, it looks a lot like a building that might host an ambitious cloud project like iCloud.

“How was Apple able to keep Google (GOOG) from displaying this particular swath of satellite imagery — imagery provided by the USDA Farm Services Agency? That’s still a mystery,” Elmer-Dewitt writes.

Oy, nothing like some well-thought out conspiratorial tech journalism from the likes of CNN and a top tech blog like Mashable.

And not too surprisingly, Google was eventually prompted to address and diffused the non-issue.

A Google spokesperson said that the company recently updated aerial imagery in Lenoir, NC. While a photo dated 4/10/2010 with no data center in it appears in the image timeline for the address in question, only half of that photo was actually taken then. The other half, which would contain the data center had it been taken on 4/10/2010, was actually taken on 5/30/09.



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