Is Google About to Pay for Another Mapping Mistake?


After recently settling a U.S. case over privacy violations related to its Street View mapping cars, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is in possible legal trouble again over its mapping practices. However, this time it’s not U.S. state governments investigating Google, but the government of India. India’s federal survey and mapping agency, the Survey of India, has prompted a New Delhi police investigation of Google over a recent mapping contest that may have violated India’s local laws reports the Wall Street Journal.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Google’s Mapathon contest offered various computer devices and other gifts as incentives to contestants who helped add information about local sites through Google Map Maker to the company’s mapping database. The contest ran for about six weeks and recently ended on March 25.

A letter from the Survey of India to Google India states the contest “is likely to jeopardize national security interest and violates National Map Policy,” reports the Wall Street Journal. Additionally, a national politician named Tarun Vijay has promised to bring up the issue in the next meeting of India’s Parliament on April 22.

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Paroma Roy Chowdhury, Google’s India spokesperson, stated via the Wall Street Journal that “Relevant Indian authorities, including the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Surveyor General of India, have been briefed on Map Maker, which complies with all applicable laws. We take security and national regulations very seriously, and we’re open to discussing specific concerns with public authorities and officials.”

This is not the first time that Google has run into trouble over its mapping practices in India. In 2005, the California-based company was investigated by the Indian government for allegedly mapping sensitive military sites, reports the Wall Street Journal. The company later agreed to blur the images of those sites on Google Earth. Google has already ceased using its Street View mapping vehicles in India after police in Bangalore forced the company to stop the practice.

Similar to Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) recent difficulties in China, Google is also still learning how to comply with local laws and adapt to cultural sensitivities in emerging markets. According to the Wall Street Journal, India’s current internet user population of 150 million is expected to increase to approximately half a billion within the next several years. Google will need to learn quickly if it wants to stay ahead in this increasingly important and growing market.

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Google closed down 1.51 percent at $783.05 on Friday.


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