Google Maps - Political Wars

"With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility"
    Remember these words from Uncle Ben to Peter Pan? Such is the case with Google Maps. Being one of the world’s leading online web mapping service means also trying to walk the impossible tightrope between the political bickering of countries. On several occasions, Google has found itself at the receiving end of the anomalies involving the geopolitical delineations and labels shown in Google Maps and Google Earth. Google's representation of the country borders and labels, and the interpretation of the same has caused many a political argument still date.

    Google has now raised the ire of Iranians over its refusal to label the waters between Iran and the Arab Gulf states on Google Maps. Iranians call this gulf the Persian Gulf while Arabs have named it the Arabian Gulf. The government of Iran is now threatening to escalate the situation through a litigation against Google for removing the label. Typing in a search on Google Maps for the Persian Gulf takes the searcher to the correct geographic location but the body of water is unlabeled.  However, a search within Google Earth shows the same location retains both the Persian Gulf and Arabian Gulf labels.



    Just recently, I had read an article, where based on a 3,000m difference in the demarcation of the boundary line between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, a Nicaraguan military commander moved his troops into Costa Rica and set up camp.  Eden Pastora, the commander, used the Google maps satellite view as a justification for taking down a Costa Rican flag and doing clean up work along the river. The boundary between the two countries in that area differs significantly on Google Maps compared to Bing Maps and Yahoo! Maps. While many sites on the Internet are buzzing with this Google Map “error”, the reality of where to border should be isn’t so clear.


    Not going far off, up close at home, we have a disputed border with China at the state of Arunachal Pradesh which is shown differently based on the country from where the user has made the request. For an user logged in from India, the Arunachal State appears to be a part of India, for a user logged in from China, that area appears to be a part of China and for other users the State border is shown as a dotted line. In the article "Is Google Cheating?" I had written about the issue and also described the reasons that Google has for doing so.

    Today, in a world where there already are so many things that may cause wars among different countries, technology like Google Maps could also lead to a political war! Is this what was meant to happen? I don't think it was. People have started using small loop holes in huge technologies to their benefits leading to dire situations which might lead to Technology giants, governments taking drastic measures.

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