CBI probes Google over Mapathon 2013

  • Abhishek Sharan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 26, 2014 01:14 IST

The Central Bureau of Investigation has taken over a probe against internet giant Google over the Mapathon 2013 --- a competition to map utilities across India --- and has questioned a senior official of the company.

Google had organised a mapping competition in 2013 without requisite government permissions in violation of Survey of India's norms following which Survey of India --- country's official mapping agency --- had lodged a complaint with the Home Ministry.

Initially the Home Ministry had asked Delhi Police to investigate but after its reluctance to probe the ministry asked the CBI to investigate.

The CBI recently sought clarifications from a top official of the Internet giant's Indian entity. The competition 'Mapathon 2013', which was organised in February-March last year, had asked citizens to map their neighbourhoods, especially the details related to hospitals and restaurants, but ended up alarming the Survey of India (SoI). SoI is India's national survey and mapping organisation under the Department of Science and Technology.

Based on a SoI complaint to the home ministry, the latter asked the CBI to probe the alleged violation. The Delhi police had earlier probed the issue.

"The company never took our permission or that of the defence ministry to organise the mapping competition, in which point features were to be mapped," SoI's additional surveyor general (technical) Major General Anil Kumar told HT. He said, "When we asked them to send us the entries, we found that there were several entries containing details on sensitive defence installations that are not in the public domain. So, we requested the home ministry to look into the violation."

"It is alleged that Google India private limited had announced a mapping competition, inviting Google map users from India to update the Google Map contents," said a CBI source. The source said, "The firm had announced various incentives for the top 1,000 participants." CBI's spokesperson Kanchan Prasad told HT, "Yes, we have lodged a PE to probe the allegations but no details can be shared since the probe is on."

In a written reply to a question on the issue in the Lok Sabha, the then minister of state for home affairs RPN Singh had said, ""M/s Google, without any approval from any agency of the government of India, conducted the Mapathon 2013 Competition to encourage participants to map their neighbourhood and places they 'care about' within the geographical boundaries of India... 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.

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