Commercial Satellite Images Drawing Attention

Major satellite image providers like Planet Labs have made headlines by restricting the release of detailed imagery of Gaza in response to a New York Times report on Israeli tank positions. During the beginning of the Ukraine conflict, these companies provided detailed images for journalists and researchers usually only seen by government intelligence agencies. During the escalating conflict in Gaza, these same satellite image providers, especially Planet Labs, have limited the availability of high-resolution imagery of the area. Planet Labs has obscured parts of Gaza in its imagery and notably reduced the release of images to its subscribers. This has drawn some attention.

Commercial satellite companies, including Planet and Maxar Technologies, have started sharing images of Gaza, but with significant delays. There’s been a noticeable slowdown in the release of detailed images, highlighting a cautious approach by these companies as they navigate the fine line between providing crucial information to news outlets and the sensitive nature of national security concerns. The situation in Gaza has put private satellite companies in a challenging position, forcing them to balance the delivery of valuable information with maintaining good relationships with federal authorities. Traditionally, decisions about releasing such sensitive information have been within the purview of governments, not private companies.

I imagine it is cheaper to hack the servers of one of these commercial satellite image companies than to build and launch a satellite with high-resolution earth observation.