The Indian government has rejected Google’s plan to map Indian cities, tourist spots, mountains, etc. using the 360-degree panoramic Street View feature, PTI reported. Government officials told PTI that the rejection came after unnamed security agencies and defence forces performed “detailed analysis” to decide whether Google’s Street View could compromise the country’s “security interest”. A spokesperson from Google India refused to comment on the government’s rejection stating that the PTI report “is still a speculated story”.
The unnamed security organization who conducted the analysis expressed concern over Google’s Street View after allegations that the 2008 Mumbai attacks were aided by photographic review of targets by the terrorists.
Street View in India
However, note that in March last year, Google added panoramic views of 31 monuments and Indian archaeological sites on Google Maps and the Google Cultural Institute. The search giant said that it had been working with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) since 2014 and had added 76 monuments with 360-degree views. The partnership was announced in 2013.
In 2011, Google had announced the introduction of Street View for the Indian city of Bangalore, on Google Maps. But later in June 2013, the project ran into trouble with Bangalore Police as they received a letter from the Commissioner of Police asking it to stop Street View cars from plying in Bangalore. But Google did not give up: In September 2013, Google, relaunched Street View in India by enabling it for private properties. This was apparently launched on August 16th 2013, and allowed visitors to view certain private properties like Sula Vineyards.
The Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju told PTI that “once the draft Geospatial Bill 2016 comes into force, issues related to internet-based application would be resolved.” Last month, the Ministry of Home Affairs released a draft “Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016” last month. The bill literally seeks to make addition of map related information or creation of even maps and sharing of location and map related data illegal without a license.
If the geospatial bill is approved, Google might have to acquire exclusive license from the Indian government to provide its Google Maps service in India. The bill would also effectively hamper cab services like Uber, Ola, and other food delivery services since they use APIs created by Google Maps for location-based features.
Online mapping services in India
MapmyIndia: Delhi-based MapmyIndia currently provides location based services and online maps in India. The company’s ‘RealView’ product is similar to Google’s Street View, but its services are limited applications like infrastructure planning, road maintenance, analysis, etc. Other than this the company also provides voice navigation, in-car entertainment services, and other mapping-based products.
Wonobo: Mumbai-based Wonobo also has a similar 360-degree panoramic service, which was launched in 2013. It was incubated with a $35 million investment by BSE-listed mapping company GENESYS. The company’s services are currently accessible through a mobile app and desktop in 17 cities like Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Pune, among others. However, at the time of launch in 2013, the company started services in 12 cities and planned to extend into to 54 cities. Its website has a notice that reads:
MediaNama has written to both the companies to understand whether these services are still active, and if the company had received notices from the Indian government in the past.