Search giant’s mapping contest draws flak for violating policy

Google’s rival map makers including MapmyIndia and Nokia said that the Internet giant should follow Indian laws when it comes to collecting data for mapping activities

Rakesh Verma, Chairman, Managing Director and Co-Founder, MapmyIndia, told Business Line, “Google is too big and we cannot compete with them. But, there should be a level playing field and all such service providers should follow the Government’s rules.”

Google had launched ‘Mapathon’ contest wherein it asked Indian users to upload information regarding points of interest around their neighbourhoods. This is now being investigated by the Delhi Police based on a complaint filed by the Survey of India. The complaint was filed after BJP’s Member of Parliament Tarun Vijay termed the contest as a ‘major threat to national security’.

Security threat

On Saturday, Vijay said he will raise India’s mapping policy and the alleged violation by Google in the next sitting of Parliament beginning April 22. “The basic issue is regarding the continuous collection of Indian data being gathered without the knowledge of the Indian authorities,” he said at a press briefing. Vijay said that Indian users may upload sensitive data on Google’s maps without realising that they were going against the law.

For example, one person has submitted information about the Hindon (Uttar Pradesh) and Ambala (Haryana) Air Force Stations showing number of fighter jets, their brands and other details.

Google said that it takes India’s security and national regulations seriously. The company said it was ‘open to discussing specific concerns with public authorities and officials’.

Nokia India, which also provides mapping and navigation systems to its customers said every map on its network is first approved from the Government. “Initially it was a challenge also, when infrastructures were coming up and sometimes taking a year to upgrade the maps, but we were very clear that we follow all the Government’s rules in a country we are present,” a Nokia spokesperson said.

Pavan Duggal, Cyberlaw expert and an advocate in the Supreme Court said that under the Information Technology (Intermediaries guidelines) Rules, 2011 of IT Act 2000, intermediaries (companies providing services) shall not host, upload, post, publish, transmit or share any information that prejudicially impacts the sovereignty of India.

He said if the Google issue is being proved as a criminal offence then the management could get three years of imprisonment or and Rs 5 lakh fine, according to the law.

Under scanner

Google has been under various security agencies’ lens. Last month, the company agreed to pay $7 million in the US to settle an investigation into its Street View mapping cars that collected passwords and other personal data from home wireless networks between 2008 and 2010. In 2011, the company had to suspend its Street View service in Bangalore over security concerns, three weeks after it started collecting images from the city.

(This article was published on April 7, 2013)
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