Survey of India launches probe against Google mapping

11 Aug 2014


Survey of India, the country's only authorised mapping agency, alleged on Sunday that internet giant Google continued to ''pollute'' the web with classified material despite being warned.

The Central Bureau of Investigation has actually registered a preliminary inquiry against Google for alleged mapping of 'classified' areas.

Surveyor General of India Swarna Subba Rao said, ''During Google's Mapathon 2013 exercise, they managed to cull out lot of classified data. We approached them to refrain from doing so when we came to know about it. But, instead of abstaining, Google polluted the internet with the coordinates of classified locations on the map,'' he said.

The CBI, which registered its enquiry against Google on 28 July following a complaint by the Survey of India, has sought all documents and evidence on Google releasing ''restricted'' locations on its map.

The case was initially handled by Delhi Police who later handed it over to the CBI.

According to the complaint, Google had not obtained permission from the Survey of India to organise a mapping competition in 2013 where citizens were asked to map their neighbouring areas, especially details related to hospitals and restaurants. The Survey, now (sadly enough), under the Department of Science and Technology, asked Google to share certain details and found out that coordinates of sensitive defence installations too were put down in the public domain.

The complaint added that apart from the SoI no other government or private organisation or individual is authorised to undertake 'Restricted' category surveying and mapping.

The CBI has so far questioned Google India's legal advisor Geetanjali Duggal and some others.

In response, Google India said, ''We are cooperating with CBI's investigations and have submitted a detailed response to the queries that they have sent.''

The Competition Commission of India too has received a complaint on ''abuse of dominance by Google,'' the search-based giant said.

All this is a far cry from the days of the dedicated Sir George Everest, who accurately mapped most of India at serious cost to his health. Today, what was once the independent Geographical Survey of India is just another bureaucrat-run body reproducing the same old maps but with serious restrictions.

The incompetence and paranoia of Indian bureaucrats is beyond belief, an experienced mountaineer once told this writer. ''It is much easier to gain access to the border areas of Pakistan than to get similar permits on the Indian side.''

No doubt there is a lesson somewhere here. But it is certain that no other democracy is so stupidly paranoid about trying to conceal its borders - which of course are very much in the public domain in this satellite age.

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