Yes, it can help you travel around the world from the comfort of your desk chair but Google Earth is a real pain in the ass if you're trying to hide something large on your property like, say, a cannabis grow operation.
Alleged marijuana grows from Google Earth.
That's how Grant Pass, Oregon cops managed to bust Curtis W. Croft who was allegedly bragging around town about his marijuana cultivation prowess, according to the Grant Pass Daily Courier.
The paper reports that after catching wind of Croft's crop, they simply plugged his address into Google Earth. Sure enough, out the back of his property there were rows of cannabis plants. Cops did a flyover to confirm and Crof was busted with three times the amount of plants he was legally able to grow as a medical cannabis patient.
This isn't the first time cops have used the freely-available software to pick out cannabis grows. Police in Wisconsin busted several marijuana fields in 2007 after arresting a man with $63,000 worth of pot and portable GPS on him. When they plugged the coordinates into Google Earth, it turned up several cannabis grow locations.
Humboldt County, Calif. is known for cannabis cultivation and cops there say they've been using Google Earth as a tool in their eradication arsenal. Basically, Google Earth is free whereas actually flying around in a helicopter costs taxpayers a boatload of money.
In fact, the feds have used it to find grows in National Forest lands for years now. In Northern California, where large-scale grows are legal (or quasi-legal), touring the farms by satellite is as easy as scrolling around with your mouse, as this 2012 video shows: