In 2013, Google imitated a “mapathon” project in India, offering prizes to encourage people to help fill in gaps and improve Google Maps in the country. At the time, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) asked the company not to collect “classified data,” such as the locations of military installations.
The mapathon focused on business locations, points of interest and major geographic features. It didn’t solicit input on military bases. Yet apparently, the participants provided that anyway.
Google is now under fire and faces potential penalties for “polluting the internet” with classified material according to the Indian government.
The government’s official Survey of India (SoI) is responsible for approving all public maps and mapping data. The agency says it was not consulted by Google prior toundertaking the mapathon. The CBI is now investigating what happened.
A search for “military area” on the mapathon site reveals multiple locations. It’s not immediately clear whether these are known bases or classified locations.
Coverage of the case has indicated there may be criminal penalties. However, it’s not clear what the fallout for Google will be upon conclusion of the investigation. Once revealed, secret military locations cannot be made secret again.
This is not the first time that Google Maps or Earth have published (or indirectly revealed) the locations of supposedly classified military bases or installations. It has previously happened in Australia, Israel and the U.S.