China to increase policing of 'illegal' maps

Custom officials are to step up inspections on mobile devices using maps that leak confidential geographical information or have inaccuracies, and detain the devices if necessary.

Chinese custom officials will have to increase their vigilance in inspecting and rooting out mobile devices that use "illegal maps" in the country.

According to a report by Xinhua Tuesday, illegal maps refer to unauthorized maps that have mistakes in how a country's borders are drawn, missing geographical features such as outlying islands, and those that leak confidential information.

Mobile devices with such maps will be detained and transferred to the local bureaus of the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation (NASMG) for further investigation, an unnamed official said in the report.

No details of how the inspections will be conducted, and it is unclear if users of Google's or Apple's map applications will get into trouble with the law.

The NASMG, which is the country's mapping authority, said it had noticed many Internet-based maps used by cell phones and tablets that are illegal, and this prompted the tighter inspections.

Local telecommunication players have been asked to work with NASMG to improve the supervision of mobile devices. If mobile devices fail to provide proper maps, the operators' network licenses may be revoked, the report noted.

The effort to stamp out illegal maps is in tandem with China's lawmakers' efforts to regulate mapping services. A draft legislation setting out restrictions on Internet map services and requiring providers to place site their servers in China is currently available for public feedback, according to a separate report by Xinhua.