Google angers Indian policy makers over "Mapathon"

Google's attempt at crowd sourcing location information in India is being investigated.
Written by Manan Kakkar, Contributor on

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.

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