The War Nearly Started by Google Maps: Is Google or the US State Department to Blame?

Nov 11, 2010 4:23pm

ABC News' Kirit Radia reports: There are developments this afternoon in the war nearly started between Nicaragua and Costa Rica by errors in Google Maps. Read the original post HERE about how a Nicaraguan military leader used the incorrectly demarcated border on Google Maps to justify entering land that Costa Rica has claimed as part of its sovereign territory. A Google spokeswoman points us to a Google blog post explaining how the Nicaragua/Costa Rica mistake came about. Read Google's blog post HERE.

“It is our goal to provide the most accurate, up-to-date maps possible. Maps are created using a variety of data sources, and there are inevitably going to be errors in that data. We work hard to correct any errors as soon as we discover them,” Charlie Hale, a Geo Policy Analyst at Google, says in the post.

Turns out Google’s map information came from incorrect information provided by the US State Department, according to the search giant. A State Department spokesman was unable to confirm that the wrong data came from them, but said the department was looking into what cooperation it has with Google Maps.

The corrected data has been provided now to Google and they are working to correct the maps, though Google is unable to say when that will be completed.

The fix on Google Maps will be to demarcate the border as it had been laid out in agreements made through US mediation in the late 19th century. The OAS has postponed until tomorrow its meetings to find a solution to the underlying political dispute.

As for the Spain/Morocco mistake, that is also in the process of being fixed but again Google is unable to say when it will be done. Google is still trying to determine how and why the designation was changed. In such cases of contested territories, Google usually acknowledges the dispute by creating a clickable annotation and does not take sides.

Back in July Google actually updated how it drew the borders for some 60 countries earlier this summer.

There have been other complaints about Google Maps’ borders in the past year, namely between Cambodia and Thailand and also between China and Vietnam. Google is quick to note that borders are tricky. For example, when a mountain range is the border or other geographic marker, exactly where do you draw the line? UPDATE: Google says the incorrect data came from the US State Department and that the department has provided corrected information since the dispute began last week. The State Department confirms that it worked with Google to correct the data once the error was discovered, but wouldn’t comment on how those mistakes were made in their data. Google does credit the “US Dept of State Geographer” on their Google Earth map (Google Maps doesn’t annotate as carefully, apparently, but the data used in both maps are the same) for that border area. You can see for yourself at this screen shot:

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus