Google has run up against some of India’s restrictive laws in the past, most notably in the context of vague and expansive censorship rules for content and search results. A new episode involves a crowdsourced mapping contest run by the company to obtain data for Google Maps.
According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Google ran a “Mapathon” contest in February and March offering prizes in exchange for information about local places, facilities and businesses:
The Internet company invited amateur mappers as well as mapping enthusiasts to add local information through its Google Map Maker software which the company said will help it create better maps. It offered tablet computers, smartphones, gift vouchers and Google merchandise for the top contestants.
According to Google India, it got information on 32,000 emergency places such as hospitals, 82,000 places where people can eat, and another 42,000 places of worship from the contestants.
It turns out that to run a contest like this, companies need permission from the Indian government. The Indian federal survey and mapping agency filed a complaint about the competition with police in New Delhi, which are now investigating Google.
According to the WSJ article, the federal “Survey of India” requested that Google stop the contest because it would “jeopardize national security interest and violates National Map Policy.” However, Google said that it had fully informed relevant Indian officials about the contest.
Google also said that it didn’t ask for or obtain any information on defense related facilities or other “sensitive places.”