His Coordinates

Opening minds or unearthing secrets?

Apr 2013 | No Comment


Following the Survey of India’s complaint lodged with the Delhi Police regarding Google India’s ‘Mapathon 2013’ contest, Coordinates asked Additional Surveyor-General of India Maj Gen RC Padhi to explain the fi ner details of the issue. The excerpts are as follows…

What is the controversy all about?

It has come to our notice that Google India organised a competition called ‘Mapathon 2013’ wherein they invited the public to participate in mapping their neighbourhoods. These maps were then supposed to be uploaded on the website of the US-based search engine. They had even announced 1,000 prizes to the top 1,000 contributors. A participant takes part and whatever detail he notices, he maps it out. However, according the National Map Policy of 2005, there are certain conditions regarding the publishing of maps for public use. The maps are supposed to be sent to the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Home Affairs and other intelligence agencies for security checks, so as to ensure that any information released does not jeopardise national security interest.

The contest also had a disclaimer.

Yes. There was a condition for the participants that the contestants would be personally responsible for whatever information they sent, and if they violated any law of the land then they would be responsible for it and not Google. So this is like a winwin situation for Google. Why should the common man be troubled? They are the ones who should be taking all the responsibility. I don’t think the common man will know the details of the national map policy. How may policies must he read and keep in mind all the time? The common man does not map neighbourhood on a daily basis. He is the user of the product not the maker. He buys a map for his personal use. So the intentions of Google are not entirely pure, since they added a disclaimer. However, those who are professionally engaged in this domain are supposed to know these policies and the fact that even before the contest was offi cially announced they should have sought clearance from the government.

Mapathon 2013

The Mapathon 2013 (the “Contest”) is designed to encourage participants to map their neighborhoods and places they care about within the geographical boundaries of India. Eligible Indian residents having attained the age of majority (“Entrant(s)”) are invited to use their personal knowledge and enthusiasm to map accurate geographical information in Google Maps for India. Winners will be chosen and prizes will be awarded in accordance with these Official Rules.


You acknowledge and agree that any content (including other User Submissions) made available or accessible through the Service is provided “as is,” and you agree to use it at your own risk. Google makes no guarantee, representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied, arising by law or otherwise, including but not limited to, content, quality, accuracy, completeness, reliability, fi tness for a particular purpose, usefulness, or that the Service will be uninterrupted or error-free. https://www. google.com/mapmaker/mapathon/india2013/

The contest was meant to provide more data to the public, since there is a dearth of accurate information available freely.

The Government of India has identifi ed whatever information is required by the public. So it is not that the public is being denied of information. They have been provided with all the necessary information, which is why the information is available in the form of many devices…on your smart phones, navigational devices etc.

When you travel on an aircraft, there are certain items you are not allowed to bring with you. Such as knives, guns etc. Similarly, with maps too. You are given the information, but only certain specifi c information is withheld.

Information pertaining to vital installations are sensitive that affects the security aspect of the nation. It is dynamic in nature. There are certain areas where military related work may be taking place and so that area becomes sensitive for a certain period of time. Now this activity of Google, we think, is violating the national policy, and is a valid security issue also.

Has there been any instance where a contestant has violated the policy?

Let us wait for the outcome of the investigation. We are not a law enforcement agency. I saw their advertisement on the net and on further research found that this violated the National Map Policy. If the police fi nd any proof then they should take suitable action and forward the case to the court. This contest is over by now since it started in February and closed in March. We do not know what content they have collected and what they have not collected.

Survey of India alleges ‘Mapathon’ “likely to jeopardise national security”

Internet giant Google could land in serious trouble over its ‘Mapathon 2013’ as the Delhi Police have launched an inquiry into the mapping contest held in February-March this year following a formal complaint by the Survey of India.

“Mapathon 2013 activity is likely to jeopardise national security interest and violates the National Map Policy. Citizens of the country, who are ignorant of the legal consequences, are likely to violate the law of the land,” the Survey of India wrote in its complaint fi led at the RK Puram police station on March 25, 2013.

“We have received a complaint from the Survey of India…an inquiry has been initiated,” a senior Delhi Police offi cial said. In a letter to Google’s India offi ce on March 21, Additional Surveyor-General of India R.C. Padhiasked the U.S.-based Internet company to stop the activity which was against “India’s policy guidelines.” “Survey of India is only [sic] mandated to undertake ‘Restricted’ category surveying and mapping and no other government/ private organisations or any individual are authorised to do so,” he wrote.

The Survey of India further noted that the “Ministry of Defence has identifi ed and prepared a list of civil and military vital areas (VAs)/vital points (VPs) in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is regularly updated. [From] national security points of view these VAs/VPs cannot be shown in the map/ data published in public domain.”

The mapping organisation also pointed out that in the terms of services, Google said individuals will be solely responsible for submission and the consequences of posting or publishing the contents. Hinting that the mapping exercise could unknowingly land Indians in trouble as they might map restricted areas. When contacted, a Google spokesperson said the idea behind the Mapathon contest was to make local information accessible to every Indian — such as health providers, emergency services, eating places, and educational institutes. “The Mapathon, like all mapping activity, has guidelines that follow applicable laws. We have not been informed of any specifi c sensitive locations being added in Google Map Maker during the recent Mapathon exercise, or otherwise. Google takes security and national regulations very seriously,” the spokesperson added.

BJP Rajya Sabha MP Tarun Vijay fi rst raised the issue by writing to the Survey of India about what he claimed was a “major threat to national security.” Mr. Vijay said Google has already provided maps where many “strategic locations” have been marked like Parliament, Sena Bhawan, and various ministries. “A criminal case should be registered against Google for violating Indian defence regulations.”

Ironically, many of these “strategic” locations have been visible on Google Maps (including with satellite imagery) for years and are marked in virtually all tourist maps of the Capital.

According to cyber law expert Pawan Duggal: “If Google was trying to delve into sovereign government space, it is bound to have serious ramifi cations. Though there is no direct law which bars them from carrying out such activity. www.thehindu.com

Google has been in India for quite some time. So how can they not be aware of the laws?

In the past also Google has crossed similar boundaries. They had carried out a similar kind of activity in Bengaluru regarding photographing the streets. Even regarding Google Earth and Google Maps, there was a lot of hue and cry about it. Such issues have been discussed with them earlier however they have got their own way of interpreting them. It is not that Google does not know the law of the land. They are quite aware of the situation in India. They feel that there are no security issues, but we feel that there are security issues.

There are many who still have access to the spatial information. Restrictions have been diluted in terms of implementation of the rules.

You must appreciate that the government is sensitive to user requirement. That is why in 2005, it came up with a good and bold map policy in which the distinction was made between defence requirement and civilian requirement. Which is why, the Survey of India has already come out with its open series of maps. So that way authenticated data prepared by the Survey of India is available to the public. And at the same time, the Survey of India has prepared enough maps for the use of security forces.

Google defends ‘Mapathon’ amid Indian security complaint

In a statement provided to ZDNet, a Google spokesperson said the application, and its use in last month’s Mapathon contest, complied with all applicable laws.

A spokesperson said Google has briefed the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Survey General of India, the national cartographer.

“The Survey of India (SOI) contacted Google regarding the Mapathon contest on March 22, and–as requested by them–we responded to them on March 25 and offered to meet them to discuss their concerns,” the spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement.

“We take security and national regulations very seriously,” said the spokesperson. “We have not heard back from them further, and are always available to discuss any concerns that they or other agencies might have regarding our programmes.” www. zdnet.com/in/google-defendsmapathon- amid-indian-securitycomplaint- 7000013672/

For example, if a school wanted to send its students to map their neighbourhood, will they require any permission?

No. We too organise competitions and encourage people to do neighbourhood mapping. There is no problem in this. But you should follow certain guidelines. You must collect only that much information that is required by you. Don’t get into information that is not required. Why would you require information regarding some defence settlement? However, you can freely map the road network, banks and hospitals, information which are in the public domain.

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