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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Google's Mapathon India competition under Delhi police scanner

A screen grab from a Google's Mapathon informational video

After BJP MP Tarun Vijay raised an alarm about Google's Mapathon event violating India's cartographical laws, Delhi Police is now investigating to figure out whether the search giant did indeed violate Indian law...

The complaint, which led to the investigation, was filed by the Survey of India, the authority which deals with all map-related complaints, which said the contest was illegal and could even threaten national security.

Survey of India first contacted Google to intimate the company about the violation of rules and then filed a complaint with the police, RC Padhi, an official at the Survey of India, told Reuters. "We have to ensure that security is not compromised at any cost," Padhi said. He also said that some information uploaded on Google Maps by Mapathon participants could be "sensitive".  
Mapathon invited users to improve upon the current Google Maps experience by adding their own inputs to their neighbourhoods

Google Mapathon event invited users to add information about their local areas for the Google Map service in India in February and March. Google at the time said the Mapathon would serve to make more local information easily accessible to all users of the Maps service. The company had promised the top 1,000 mappers prizes of tablets, smartphones and gift vouchers.

In their communication to Google, Survey of India said that they alone are "mandated to undertake ‘Restricted’ category surveying and mapping and no other government/private organisation or any individual is authorised to do so."

In response, a Google India spokesperson said the company is open to discussing the concerns with the relevant authorities in India. "The Mapathon, like all mapping activity, has guidelines that follow applicable laws. We have not been informed of any specific sensitive locations being added in Google Map Maker during the recent Mapathon exercise, or otherwise. Google takes security and national regulations very seriously," the spokerperson was quoted as saying by a leading Indian daily.

That report further quoted from the complaint filed by the Survey of India on March 25 at the RK Puram police station. “Mapathon 2013 activity is likely to jeopardise national security interest and violates the National Map Policy. Citizens of the country, who are ignorant of the legal consequences, are likely to violate the law of the land," it said.

"One complaint has been received and we are forwarding it to the cyber-cell for further action," Chhaya Sharma, Deputy Commissioner of Police, New Delhi, said. However, Google officials said they have not yet received an official communication from the police.


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