Google India failed to get approvals from any agency before going ahead with its Mapathon contest in February-March, asking citizens to map their neighbourhoods, the Union government said on Tuesday.
The case is now being probed by the Delhi Police after the Survey of India charged the Internet giant with jeopardising “national security interest” and violating the National Map Policy.
“M/s Google, without any approval from any agency of the Government of India, conducted the Mapathon 2013 Competition to encourage participants to map their neighbourhood and places they ‘care about’ within the geographical boundaries of India... From national security point of view, civil and military Vital Areas (VAs)/Vital Points (VPs) cannot be shown in the map/data published in [the] public domain,” Minister of State for Home Affairs R.P.N. Singh said in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha.
Mr. Singh pointed out that on March 21, the Surveyor-General of India wrote to Google India, asking it to stop the competition. A complaint was also filed by the Survey of India at the R.K. Puram police station.
However, informed sources said the Delhi Police suggested to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that it refer the matter to the CBI’s cyber crime cell. The Delhi Police told the MHA that its cyber crime cell had limited reach and that the CBI, a federal investigating agency, would be able to carry out the probe more effectively as the investigation would have national ramifications. It noted that Google India had launched a nationwide contest and people might have passed on maps and other key details of strategic installations located in other cities and States to the U.S. company, they added.
As first reported by The Hindu earlier this month, the Survey of India filed a police complaint on March 25, stating that Google’s “Mapathon 2012 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.”
In his letter to Google’s India office on March 21, Additional Surveyor-General of India R.C. Padhi wrote: “The Survey of India is only mandated to undertake ‘Restricted’ category surveying and mapping, and no other government/private organisations or any individual are authorised to do so.” As per the National Map Policy-2005, “the responsibility for producing, maintaining and disseminating the topographic map database of the whole country, which is the foundation of all spatial data, vests with the Survey of India.”
However, Google India clarified that the aim of the Mapathon was to make local information accessible to every Indian — such as health-care 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 specific sensitive location being added in Google Map Maker during the recent Mapathon exercise, or otherwise. Google takes security and national regulations very seriously,” it said.