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Google mapping comes under CBI lens

Google had not taken permission from Survey of India before organising a mapping competition in Feb-March 2013

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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) against internet giant Google over 2013, an event organised by the US company, for allegedly violating laws by mapping sensitive areas and defence installations, prohibited under law.

registered the inquiry based on a complaint filed by the Surveyor General of India’s office to the home ministry, in which Google has been accused of indulging in activities of mapping areas not included in the maps of the country, official sources said here.

The internet giant had not taken permission from (SoI), the country’s official mapping agency, before organising a competition in February-March 2013 when they asked citizens to map their neighbourhoods, especially details related to hospitals and restaurants.

Alarmed by Mapathon, the SoI asked the internet giant to share details on where they found several coordinates having details of sensitive defence installations which are out of the public domain.

Highlighting the violations to the home ministry, SoI said only it was mandated to undertake “Restricted”, category surveying and mapping, and no other government or private organisations or individuals were authorised to do so.

According to 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.”

Responding to queries, Google India said, “We are in touch with relevant authorities and take national regulations and security very seriously. We are not aware of any privacy issues and have nothing more to share at this point in time.”

After an initial probe by Delhi Police, the case was handed to CBI, as investigations required access to places across the country and, if need be, questioning of some individuals with the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as Google is incorporated in the US.

It was alleged 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 US company, the sources added.

For SoI, it was clarified that the company never took any permission before undertaking the mapping exercise, and from national security point of view, civil and military vital areas, vital points cannot be shown in the map/data published in public domain.

CBI might be roping in some Army officials in its probe as some sensitive installations have allegedly been mapped in its services, the sources said.

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