back to article Google Maps community competition falls foul of Indian regulations

Google has found itself in hot water in India, with the country's Central Bureau of Investigation launching a formal investigation into Google Maps for allegedly publishing the location of sensitive military bases. The problem arose because of a community competition held last year - Google's Mapathon 2013 - in which the …

  1. pigor

    Security through obscurity always work... :)

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Shouldn't that be security through bureaucracy?

  2. Mark 85

    Falling foul perhaps to a US-centric mindset, Mountain View neglected to obtain the necessary approval from the official mapping agency, Survey of India.

    I think it's more of the Google MindSet. Slurp whatever they want everyone be damned.

    To carry out mapping independently of the national agency, Google would have required permission from India's defence ministry and home ministry as well as the SoI.

    Aha.... the SoI people took umbrage as a few toes got stomped on. I wonder if this would have been an issue if they had gotten approval? Or would it take 10 years to get approval?

    Since this was a neighborhood competition, are the community folks who gave Google the coordinates in hot water also? Or maybe that "hospital" was secret base?

  3. NP-Hardass

    Bureaucracy at its best

    Only one organization licensed to produce maps?! What poppycock!

    1. Ole Juul

      Re: Bureaucracy at its best

      They don't even automatically include foreign corporations. The nerve!

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Bureaucracy at its best

      And what is with the OS in the UK? Didn't they also have a monopoly for cartography within the UK?

      1. 's water music

        Re: Bureaucracy at its best

        And what is with the OS in the UK?

        Nope the OS simply retain copyright in their own maps

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bureaucracy at its best

      As well as bureaucratic, there's a cultural element too. They're the domain of outsiders, so much so that you find you'll generate a fair bit of suspicion just by banding one about in a public place. Much better to be guided to where you want to go by a local. You won't generally find maps in book shops either, other than antique maps maybe.

  4. solo

    Seems reasonable

    "..Falling foul perhaps to a US-centric mindset.."

    You mean they forgot there are other (democratically elected) governments in this world than their original overlords (NSA)?

  5. Crisp

    If India has nothing to hide

    They have nothing to fear.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    How would anyone know that they are taking a photo of a secret military base, if its identity is secret!

    1. Cipher

      Re: Secret?

      Good point. If the community at large knows the locations of these bases, wouldn't it be safe to assume that any interested party knows them as well. Did the Five Eyes, Russia, China, Pakistan, hell did any major player NOT know these locations before Google asked the locals to put them on the map?

      No doubt that there are roads leading up to these bases, where one encounters a gate with armed guards. Big tipoff to anyone with more than a few working brain cells...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Secret?

      I did my compulsory military service in Hungary under communism. (yes I am that old!) Around any "sensitive" installation there were "Photography forbidden" signs, helping spies to find their targets :-). When we did guard duty we had to record the registration numbers of any foreign, diplomatic and rental cars.

      1. Colin Wilson 2

        Re: Secret?

        It's not just former communist countries either.

        I used to live near Heathrow when they were building Terminal 5. Lots of Photography Forbidden signs aruond the construction there too.

        Including, rather bizzarely, on a green field the other side of the M25 from the rest of the airport. Only the sturdy fence and the signs gave any clue that there was Something There!.

        1. Alister

          Re: Secret?

          So.... are you saying there's a secret military base under a field near Heathrow terminal 5?

  7. Vatsan

    This is not the first time Google is guilty of this crime. Years ago, the then President of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam also raised concern of seeing our Nuclear Installations on Google Map. 26/11 Mumbai attacks were largely aided by Google Maps - especially the attack on Jewish House. This repeat callousness only reaffirms the typical American mindset of "we-don't-care-about-others".

    1. rh587 Silver badge

      Because without Google Maps it would have been totally impossible for a member of the public to go to a public location, such as an Opera House, Bazaar or neighbourhood and scope it out for themselves. The absence of Google Maps would have totally scuppered their ability to plan such an attack...

      As for Nuclear Installations... those would be totally impossible to know about.

      I mean, it's not like there aren't thousands of people employed at those locations, at least some of whom will spill details when plied with alcohol. Not to mention news articles about them, multiple online sources of information like the IAEA, etc where details could be gleaned...

    2. JaitcH

      Crime? What crime?


      What crime is it to fly around the world taking snapshots? Or perhaps, in your mind, there is some International Agreement that prevents this, that no one else knows of?

      Maybe they should have used Mapquest to knock off the Jewish House?

      1. kmac499

        Re: Crime? What crime?

        Well I think the FAA isn't too keen. That is if the camera in question is hanging off a remote controlled toy helicopter..

        And No I don't agree with their view, Personal Privacy should be respected\covered; tho' if anyone would be dumb enough to want to hover outside my bathroom window just make sure the mic\sound is turned down..

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about all the other crowdsourced maps?

    So, what happens if some location is censored from Google Maps but someone adds it to OpenStreetMap instead? Information does kinda want to be free, as they say :)

    (Mind you, it would be much easier for some spook to revert the edits in OSM)

  9. Otto is a bear.

    Satellite Mapping

    India's stand point is pointless, the existence of companies that can map your country from satellite photographs renders such monopolies pointless, for anything other than the domestic market.

    It's also pointless to have secret military bases, every local knows they are there, just not what they do, and any satellite photograph again renders such useless.

    Google Maps just make it easier to find things for good or ill, the genie is out of the box. People who have ideas, especially innovative ideas that change the world, tend to focus on their beneficial view of the outcome, and not the negative or unintended consequences. Google is not the only company, government, political party, religion, Reg Reader, etc. etc. guilty of this, and it isn't a purely American trait. We should remember as well, we made Google what it is today, they provided the service, we loved it and used it.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Satellite Mapping

      India's stand on mapping isn't just about protecting a monopoly. A major part of their strategic defensive military doctrine is based on an invading force having limited knowledge of what is actually on the ground. Not just military installations, but geographic features as well.

      The idea is sound, if the invading force doesn't have aircraft... India has plenty of modern materiel, but not a lot of modern strategy or tactics to go along with all the shiny helicopters and missiles. It's really a very odd situation. If you discount the antennas and rifles Kashmir looks more like a Persian advance occupation force than the military of a nuclear armed country. I'm not saying their military is weak, it is not, it just has some rather quaint ideas about modern war.

      1. bigtimehustler

        Re: Satellite Mapping

        Yes, this may well be the case. But what we are saying is that it is complete nonsense. Any country wanting to invade would have satellite photos and intelligence information telling them where all the bases are and what they do. Most organised terrorist organisations would have the same.

        They need to stop living in the 1940's.

  10. Irony Deficient

    The competition mostly focused on restaurants and hospitals

    The focus of the competition should not be presumed to be based upon cause and effect.

  11. Bartholomew

    map out, money in

    OS maps of U.S..- paid for by the tax payers, raw data downloadable from .gov websites.

    OS maps of U.K. - paid for by the tax payers, sold to the public in small sections ideally on paper.

    Most colonies/ex-colonies of the U.K. do what the U.K. does it is easy money to hold onto that monopoly.

  12. Ian Watkinson

    Sounds like a case of the Cowboys getting caught out by the Indians...


    The post is required, and must contain letters.

  13. JaitcH

    Given there are a plethora of 50-centimetre definiton pix available ...

    from all parts of the international political spectrum why don't they complain to their friends in Russia? The Indians seem to be getting as dumb as the Greeks used to be over mapping. It won't work, on fact it is likely to increase the scrutiny of India.

    Google doesn't show all the pop-up missiles (hidden in box-like roof ornaments) on the White House roof, at the request of the USA government, but the Russians do. Google goes fuzzy over Area 51 whereas Russia has high definition pix.

    Indian resources would be better spent eliminating rape, and men's attitudes towards it, developing it's sad infrastructure and feeding the starving millions instead of wasting money on phallic symbols such as nuclear bombs and space shots.

    But the USA and the UK have to be 'nice' to India as it houses massive cable tapping facilities.

  14. ankitsingh_09

    As far as the secrecy to keep the private locations out of sight Google maps and Google Earth does fail the tests, it is clear that you can see the private locations of the Government through Google Earth, the Terrorists Organizations does benefit from these services. During 26/11 the terrorists organizations attacking certain places where they could not be without using these services and is so important to clear out these days.

  15. kanika789

    JOSAA 2019

    Joint Seat Allocation Authority (JoSAA) is the JEE Main 2019 Counselling body that organizes the process of Counseling for the candidates who excel in JEE Main 2019. The organization is set up by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). The candidates are applying in the JEE Main 2019 April Session.To Know more about JOSAA visit

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like