China has launched an investigation against Coca-Cola, accusing the food and beverage (F&B) giant for conducting alleged illegal mapping activities in many sensitive areas in the country.
According to South China Morning Post Thursday, the case is being dealt with by China's National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation, and the Ministry of National Security.
An official from the administration said many subsidiaries of Coca-Cola are involved and this happened in many provinces in the country. "Due to the sheer scale of the case, the complexity of the technology involved and the implication to national security, we are working with the Ministry of State Security on this," the official said in the report.
The news came after Li Pengde, deputy director of the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation, accused Coca-Cola on a national radio program on Tuesday, saying some of its employees were caught using hand-held GPS devices to collect sensitive geographical information in Yunnan province.
Coca-Cola then issued a statement, stating it was "cooperating fully" with investigation. The GPS used were "digital map and customer logistic systems" commercially available in China, the F&B giant said, adding it was used to improve fuel efficiency and customer service.
However, Han Qixing, director of the administration's law enforcement department involved in the investigation, said the mapping technology used by the U.S. company is so sophisticated it is beyond the administration's capacity to analyze its system. Han said after they reported the case to Beijing, they were told Yunnan was not the only province involved and the case was transferred to the Ministry of National Security.
"This involves national security. I'm not allowed to talk about any details. We are waiting for the central government to make a final decision," Han said.
The Chinese government has been heavily vigilant on the use of mapping technologies locally. Last October, custom officials were instructed to step up their efforts in inspecting and identifying mobile devices which use maps that leak confidential geographical information or have inaccuracies. This is in line with local authorities' efforts to regulate mapping services in the country.