The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered a preliminary enquiry against Google, over a complaint filed by Survey of India on Google’s Mapathon mapping contest last year, reports PTI. Responding to MediaNama’s request for a comment, a Google spokesperson told MediaNama that “We are in touch with relevant authorities and take national regulations and security very seriously. We have nothing more to share at this point in time.”
The report suggests that after Google shared the Mapathon details, Survey of India noticed several mapped coordinates of sensitive defence installations that aren’t supposed to available in the public domain.
In April 2013, Delhi Police had apparently written to the Ministry of Home Affairs suggesting that the case should ideally be handed over to the CBI’s cyber security cell, since the latter has a pan-India purview and this investigation would require access to places across the country, as indicated by a The Hindu report.
Survey Of India’s initial complaint
Survey of India had lodged a police complaint against Google on April 8 last year. The basis of the complaint was that this competition is likely to jeopardise national security and is in violation of 2005’s National Maps Policy. As per this archaic policy, the responsibility for producing, maintaining and disseminating the topographic map database of the whole country lies with the Survey of India.
Later in the month, The then Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs, R.P.N. Singh had said in a written statement to the Parliament that civil and military Vital Areas (VAs)/Vital Points (VPs) cannot be shown in the map/data published in public domain from national security point of view. He also noted that Surveyor General of India had written to Google on March 21, 2013, asking them to stop the competition.
As we said earlier, the Survey of India’s call for banning Google Mapathon was actually against the objective set forth by the National Map Policy that clearly states that the organization should promote the use of geospatial knowledge and intelligence through partnerships with all sections of the society. Google Mapathon essentially did exactly that, albeit with a commercial objective. (Read: Why India’s Maps policy is regressive and bureaucratic)
If the organization has concerns that a detailed map can make things more easier for terrorists, it could probably work with Google to censor this sensitive imagery.
Google’s past troubles
This isn’t the first time that Google has had a run in with the Indian government. In July 2011, Google was forced to stop collecting street level imagery in Bangalore after it received a letter from the Commissioner of Police. Assistant Commissioner of the Bangalore Police T Sunil had later said that Google had failed to get clearances from the Central Government, and Ministry of Defence.