Mapathon 2013 contest raises national security concerns

BJP MP Vijay: Is Google above the Indian law?

By Neethu M.

NEW DELHI: BJP Member of Parliament Tarun Vijay has said the collection of data by Google during the recently concluded Mapathon contest might result in  breach of security in India.

Speaking at a press conference here Saturday, Vijay asked whether the government is bothered if Google or the GPS navigation software shows landmarks like the Parliament, or Rashtrapati Bhawan.

“The basic issue is regarding the continuous collection of Indian data being gathered without the knowledge of the Indian authorities,” he said. If there is a law regarding the mapping, and a constitutional position regarding its effect on India’s security, should that prevail or is that Google be seen as above the Indian law and the Constitutional position, he queried.

Vijay said he met the Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde as well as Defence Minister A K Antony yesterday regarding Google’s violations of Indian law, and urged them to take up the matter seriously.

“I have asked them, Is Google above Indian law? The issue is whether there is an Indian law governing mapping?” he said.

Vijay also questioned the Indian government’s response on this regard.

“One never gets to know the quantum of data Google collected and not uploaded. The most serious point is Google’s Time Line temporal data collection. They map a location X two years before, and the same location is mapped two or three years later, registering the changes in Time Line, “ he said. “That’s too crucial for missile targeting data for the alien governments. Can we afford to have such data go public or be stored in a location that’s not in our control? Then what’s the role of Indian constitutional agencies like Survey of India? An ignorant people may think Google Mapathon is a fun carnival, and inadvertently may jeopardize nation’s security.”

Earlier, while speaking to the American Bazaar, the Supreme Court lawyer Renjith Marar said that Google’s offence is a violation of the Official Secrets Act.

Vijay also expressed his discontent over Google’s silence over the whole issue. Google’s “careless arrogant” attitude will be checked under the scanner of the Indian laws even though, it is a bit slow, he says.

Nobody has been denied data vetting. Indian companies like mapping company MapmyIndia and global navigation map MNC like Nokia/Navteq all follow the law of the land. Then why should Google also not follow the process, Vijay queried at the press conference. In this process, the government is denying the mapping industry of India a level playing field and also sending a wrong message to the larger community that the law of the land can be taken for granted, he added.

Google has incurred wrath of Indian politicians and government officials in the past too, including protest by the former president of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam.

Earlier, clear images of Indian military installations and political institutions was displayed on Google Earth, in September, 2005. Following that, it was decided that high resolution images of sensitive installations on the website would be replaced with low resolution images making it difficult for subversive elements to take a close look at important sites and pinpoint their gradient and location.

In 2008, followed by the 26/11 terror attacks, a Mumbai-based advocate moved the Bombay high court seeking a “complete ban on Google Earth and similar sites like Wikimapia” in the larger interest of national security.

Meanwhile, in a related development, the Surveyor General of India said that he had sent a strong reminder to the Delhi Police Commisioner Neeraj Kumar yesterday to take serious action on this regard. He added that this a “real security concern”.

The Delhi police said that the investigations are on to check whether the Internet giant Google violated the Indian mapping rules while they conducted the Mapathon contest 2013.

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