Google angers Indian policy makers over "Mapathon"

Google angers Indian policy makers over "Mapathon"

Summary: Google's attempt at crowd sourcing location information in India is being investigated.

TOPICS: India, Google

Back in February of this year Google India introduced a campaign to crowd source mapping data in India. The competition was called Mapathon 2013 and asked contributors to use Google Map Maker to point out locations in their neighborhoods. The top contributors would be eligible to win Android tablet PCs, phones etc. Unfortunately for Google, an intelligent idea has taken a wrong turn with the company being investigated by the Delhi police for breaching the country's security.

In a complaint lodged by Survey of India, a government body in charge of mapping & surveys, they claim that the competition is illegal. One of their concerns is that some of the information uploaded by the users might be sensitive (a fair concern). According to the police department, the complaint has been received and has been forwarded to the cybercrime division to look into it. 

What makes matters worse for Google is a strongly worded letter by Member of Parliament Tarun Vijay. The letter addressed to the Home and Defense ministers has Tarun Vijay calling out Google for skirting the laws and jeopardising India's security. According to parts of the letter obtained by Indo-Asian News Service, Tarun Vijay says,

[Google has shown] utmost disrespect for the Indian mapping laws. Google has become habitual of offending Indian sensitivities, and previously also it was found uploading positions of Indian warships, showing Jammu and Kashmir in Pakistan territory and also Arunachal under China

He further implored the Defense & Home ministers to look into the matter "keep the sanctity and supremacy of the Indian law intact."

While Google has been in the midst of a free-speech-on-the-Internet debate, the mapping issue is unrelated. This isn't the first time Google's mapping initiatives in India have run into legal troubles with the government. Back in 2011, Google had to halt their StreetView initiatives in Bangalore due to legal concerns raised by the city's police force. Back then, the media outlets claimed it to be a policy confusion and Google being a victim. This time however, the concerns raised seem to be genuine. While Google might have their intentions in the right place, all Google Maps users might not have the same peaceful intentions.

Somehow Google just can't seem to get a break with Indian law.

Topics: India, Google

Manan Kakkar

About Manan Kakkar

Telecommunication engineer with a keen interest in end-user technology and a News junkie, I share my thoughts while preparing for my Master's in Information Management.

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  • Kick the thief out of the country like the Chinese did...

    Google has no ethics.
    • Screw you!!!

      Usually I don't make any comment, as I think everyone can express his/her opinion, he has the right to feel the way he wants. Also I have no intent to argue with anyone.

      But for this? I only want to say screw you!!! Do you know anything about Chinese, about Chinese government, about how people in China feel?

      Chinese gov kicks off Google because Chinese gov wants to block all information(most political related) that it doesn't want to people knows which Google strongly disagrees.

      As a Chinese, we suffer a lot - I don't want to say too much about political because it's unsafe to say anything against the gov.

      For us, Google is a hero which doesn't obey the willing of the evil.
      • Profanity aside, this article is about India..

        ..and if you're so worked up about your deal with your nation, fight for your freedom. The Indians did and are a *democratic* country and are pissed as hell if Google or any other company disregards legit security concerns and law of the land.
        And Hero? Really? What you seem to imply is that Google is there in China "because not being there would hurt Chinese human rights and the Giant Pandas would stop eating." What Chinese junk are you smoking? It's a for-profit company just like any other.
  • Same old Google

    Seems like the folks at Google just don't get it. If you intend to do a project like this you have to consider the local conditions. Is it legal? Does it violate some cultural condition? They don't seem to care.

    Being the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room should mean that you are More careful when you move, not less. "Don't be evil." That's a joke. If they keep this up they will be worse than Facebook.
    • Well...'s legal. It's just going to take India a few years to realize that.
      • It seems you have more knowledge about Indian culture.

        could you please care to share.
        Ram U

        In India, it is illegal to take photographs and/ or recordings of any kind of certain places, installations etc. especially when they refer to defense, critical instrastructure, etc.
        • Re: illegal to take photographs and/ or recordings of any kind of certain p

          Is there a list of these places and their locations anywhere? It would be useful to have one, don't you think, to help Indians avoid breaking the law?

          Perhaps it would be useful for such a list to be uploaded to Google maps.

    Information that is already known to random members of the public can be deemed "sensitive"!?

    Only by a paternalistic government...
    • It seems you have a lot more information about India

      Could you please care to share.
      Ram U
      • Re: Could you please care to share.

        I would, but it might be deemed "sensitive"...
    • Your ignorance makes me cry

      You as a Delhiite knowing where certain military establishments are is fine but voluntarily sharing this information with the public is not only ignorant but also retarded.
      Manan Kakkar
      • Re: voluntarily sharing this information with the public

        So Delhiites are something special, not "public"?
        • Are you trying to be stupid?

          Are you deliberately trying to be ignorant? Or you really are just ignorant?
          Manan Kakkar
          • Re: Are you trying to be stupid?

            It is really sad to see a ZDNet blogger conducting a personal attack on a reader. You bring disrepute on your employer.
  • ?

    To be honest this /story/ is just crap.
    What laws where actually violated, and can you link a .gov site that has the ACTUAL text of said law that was violated?
    When you link to "a complaint lodged by Survey of India" can you link to the ACTUAL Complaint lodged by Survey of Inda instead of some other news site that dosn't say anything different or have any text of said complaint.

    If your going to report the news, report it. if your going to put links in your article to other refernces, cite something of value & not some circular referenced bull shit.

    lrn to
  • I'm a little confused

    Isn't it the responsibility of the user uploading the data to ensure it's legal? Granted I'm not Indian, but I'm having a hard time seeing why Google is being condemned, and so vociferously. Does any mapping having to be sanctioned a priori in India? Is any crowd-sourced collection of public information forbidden?

    It also occurs to me that I may have some illegal photos of New Delhi (and elsewhere) in my portfolio. I mean, they were taken outdoors and many contain public buildings.
    • I'm a little confused

      well that's not illegal, but showing Indian land in china's and pakisthan's map is wrong.
  • Sanctity of Indian law?

    "... keep the sanctity and supremacy of the Indian law intact."

    Calling Indian law "holy and supreme" is a bit too close to a religious argument against what Google does. It just shows that it is not just the Muslim and Christian followers that can be a bit "touchy" about their sacred places.
  • Making public information public is a crime?

    So, here's a building with a sign out front saying what it is, and someone posts that on an internet map. The information was public because it's right out in the open. But putting that public information on the internet is a crime??? Well, legislators the world over are fond of making it illegal for citizens to do pretty much anything. But I have a lot more sympathy for citizens who do things that hurt nobody than I have for legislators who, if they could, would make breathing illegal so that they could arrest anybody they didn't like.