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Google Maps Might Not Operate In India Without Licence

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The search engine leader, Google and other map service provider companies might land in some trouble soon. Providers like Google Maps, which is a web-based service providing detailed information about geographical regions and sites around the world, might need a licence now.

This is because the Indian government is planning on a new law that will make it unlawful for companies to provide imaging services or maps like Google Maps without any prior licence. The government of India has decided to provide licence only after the maps and related services have been critically examined by a special committee known as Security Vetted Authority that will be formed to look into this matter.

Violation of Geospatial Information Regulation Bill

When such companies will be provided licence, they will have to stick to certain rules and regulations in order to show accurate maps of India. If anyone violates, they will be slapped with a fine of up to Rs 100 crore. Well, not only this but this may also result in jail of up to 7 years. This is against the executives of the company providing the maps.Source: www.indiatimes.com

As per the draft of the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, the aim is to ensure that all maps distributed in the country either physically or digitally should be accurate and comply with the rules and guidelines issued by the Indian Government. The NDA government is hoping to introduce this bill soon in the Parliament.

By Geospatial information, it means the data about boundaries and things that can be represented by numerical values in a geographic coordination system collected via mediums like satellites, space, balloons, and UAVs.

According to the draft of the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, it notes that…

“Every person who has already acquired any geospatial imagery or data of any part of India either through space or aerial platforms such as satellite, aircraft, airships, balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles or terrestrial vehicles… shall within one year from the commencement of this Act, make an application along with requisite fees to the Security Vetting Authority for retaining such geospatial information and grant of licence.”

Reason for this Bill

The Government of India has come up with this rule because of inaccuracies in the maps earlier. Formerly, on some occasions, there have been a lot of mistakes in some of the maps provided by web services like Google Maps. They have shown India without areas like Arunachal Pradesh and PoK. With the introduction of this new bill, the
Indian Government hopes to rectify such issues.

The aim of the draft of the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill: “Bill to regulate the acquisition, dissemination, publication and distribution of geospatial information of India which is likely to affect the security, sovereignty and integrity of India.”

However, the government organizations will not be controlled by the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill. But the government may still hope to punish mapping errors by private entities.

The Draft also notes that “The Central Government may, by notification in Official Gazette, exempt the Ministries,  Departments, Public Sector Enterprises or any other attached or subordinate offices of the Central   Government or State Governments from the provisions of this Act to the extent it deems fit.”

As of now, map providing service companies like Google Maps, Apple Maps etc are not commenting upon it but when creating and distributing maps will be extremely easy, it is possible that the government may have problems with enforcing the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill.Source: www.matpal.com

As of now, the government has opened up the platform for commenting on the draft bill until next month. The common people can decide what it should be and how it should be. Well, there is hardly any doubt that if the law is implemented, it could have massive implications on the map services currently used by millions and millions of users in India. The time will decide whether the decision from Narendra Modi Government is a boon or not.

Geo-Services Under Scan: Not for the first time

This is not the first time when services like Google Maps have come under the examination in India. In 2014 too, the investigation agency of India, CBI had launched a research into Google Map’s alleged irregularities in Mapathon 2013. The search engine giant, Google was blamed for running the Mapping competition without the government’s permissions and that was in violation of Survey of India (SoI) laws. However, after a couple of years, CBI had to call off the probe because there were not enough of evidence to confirm the allegations.

One of the most recent incidents was when the Delhi High Court asked the Government of India in order to investigate into G0ogle Maps for showing nuclear power plants, Indian defence installations, and other sensitive areas. For this reason, Google was accused of showing detailed and high-resolution images of Pathankot Air Base and the areas surrounding it on Google Earth and Maps. The company was accused of covering the sensitive data in the US as well as China and not following the same rules for India.

These services like Google Maps have been useful to us but we cannot ignore the fact that they have created some discomfort among the government officials. When Google started mapping the roads in Bengaluru for its Street View feature, the company was asked to stop the project for a while because of some security concerns. Till now, Google has not secured the permission to continue its Street View project even after continuous talks with the government.

Conclusion

Without any doubt, these initiatives by Narendra Modi government may be noble to protect the sensitive data and avoid its misuse, such strict bill may make it more difficult for service providers to operate in the country. It is important to balance the acts i.e Indian territories should be displayed correctly plus the sensitive locations should be masked and at the same time, the process of granting licences to these organizations should be transparent and quick. Will this initiative from Narendra Modi’s government side will rectify the errors? Or will it make it hard for Geo service providers to function in India?

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