iconimg Thursday, April 02, 2015

Aloke Tikku, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, August 21, 2013
The Survey of India – India’s official mapping agency - has asked the home ministry to act on its complaint that Google had jeopardised national security by a competition that asked people to identify locations on Google maps. The SoI had complained to Delhi Police in March about Mapathon 2013 violating Indian mapping policy and law, expressing concern that Google’s India arm could gather and put out data about sensitive locations.

But the police are yet to register a formal case against Google, prompting SoI’s missive.

“There has been a violation of the policy and law which impacts the country’s security. We have brought it to the attention of the government agency concerned. Now, it is for the home ministry to examine the issue and take action,” said Major General RC Padhi, who was till recently Additional Surveyor General of India, who wrote to the ministry.
 
The Controversy
Google’s Mapathon 2013 asked netizens to identify locations on Google maps beginning 12th February. The company promised prizes – tablets, smart phones and T-shirts – for the 1000 best entries.

The SoI woke up to the violations in mid-March.

Maj Gen Padhi wrote to Google's India office on March 21 asking the company to stop the competition, in violation of India’s mapping policy. He lodged a police complaint a few days later.

Concern
Besides the violation, the Surveyor General’s office was concerned that netizens could identify secret and high security premises without realising the security
fallout.

“From national security point of view, civil and military Vital Areas (VAs)/Vital Points (VPs) cannot be shown in the map/data published in [the] public domain,” Minister of State for Home Affairs RPN Singh explained in the Lok Sabha in April.
 
What next
In a message on its website, Google’s Mapathon team announced an indefinite delay in announcing the results. The SoI wanted to review the data added during the Mapathon to ensure it doesn’t reveal sensitive information, it said.

“Towards this end, we had provided them the data that was added during the Mapathon, but have not yet heard back,” the message added.

A government source told HT that the data had been passed on to the defence ministry which will assess the data in consultation with intelligence agencies.