Wednesday, 25 August 2010
Google in trouble again over Kashmir map
Given the prevalence of disputed borders around the world, the task of mapping the world is fraught with difficulties. Google Maps, a theoretically objective service, often find themselves caught in political disputes between nations, and there is often no clear 'right' answer on where to mark the border.
Mapping India's borders has been one of the company's biggest challenges. The issue first emerged in 2005, when Google's political map of the subcontinent had a clearly defined boundary between India and Pakistan, with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) on the Pakistani side of the border. Political remonstrations resulted in Google marking the border as disputed. The issue flared up again on 21st August when Indian authorities announced that Google Maps had 'given' POK back to Pakistan. Indian officials threatened Google with legal action if a change was not made immediately.
"Any wrongful depiction of Indian map and its boundaries is liable for action under the India Information Technology Act. Google has been asked to immediately correct this inaccuracy," Minister of state for telecom and IT Sachin Pilot said. Google has said that the responsible department has rectified the maps.
Google has faced issues in India before, when in 2009, Google's satellite maps showed parts of Arunachal Pradesh as Chinese territory, labeled with Chinese script. China claims parts of Arunachal Pradesh as part of South Tibet, while India claims it in its entirety.
One solution Google has used in the past has been to depict maps differently for local versions. The Chinese version of Google Maps for example shows parts of Arunachal Pradesh as inside China's borders. Similarly, the Indian version depicts the state as part of India. The global version of Google Maps shows Arunachal Pradesh as disputed territory through using broken lines on the map.
Further disputes include the placement of the border between Thailand and Cambodia, with Cambodia complaining that the map ceded territory to Thailand. Thailand and Cambodia have a longstanding dispute over an 11th century Hindu temple called Preah Vihear. Despite an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling in 1962 in favour of Cambodia, disputes have remained because the area around the temple was not covered. The two countries came close to dispute this summer over new site management plans submitted to UNESCO by Cambodia; in particular, a 4.6sq km area at the base of the temple is under continued dispute. Cambodia argued that the Google map put half of the temple in Thai territory.
Even countries which have resolved their border disputes have had issues with Google Maps. In March 2010, Vietnam claimed that Google had misrepresented their border with China, situating it a few kilometers south of the agreed line.