Google’s incredible market share puts it in a strange position of responsibility, as the world was reminded earlier this month when Google.ps changed “Palestinian Territories” to “Palestine”.
Nowhere can this impact on geopolitics be seen better than in Google Maps, a major product into which Mountain View keeps pumping money. While Google does its best to avoid controversy, for example showing multiple territorial claims in the Golan Heights, sometimes they screw up. Other times there is simply no good answer.
In light of reports of an upcoming redesign, we thought it was time to take a look at the most controversial places in Google Maps.
When you searched for Google Maps in 2008, you just found a big white space.
There were accusations that Google may have removed the information in a bid to remain 'neutral' during the Georgia-Russia crisis -- some noted that Google's Russian-born co-founder Sergey Brin might even have something to do it.
Google responded by saying that they never had any map data for Georgia. At some point in the intervening years, the gap has been filled in.
Source: Foreign Policy
Google previously refered to the controversial body of water bordering Iran and the Arab Gulf States as the 'Persian Gulf (Arabian Gulf).' Iranians launched a petition in 2008 to drop the term 'Arabian Gulf' entirely.
Last year Google removed any name from the body of water, but many Iranians were still angry.
At the time of writing, the map is once again labelled 'Persian Gulf (Arabian Gulf)' when accessed from the U.S.
Source: Petition Online
China and India have a number of different border disputes. In 2009, Google Maps fell into the centre of this after Indian bloggers noticed that the place names in the disputed area of Arunachal Pradesh had appeared in Chinese characters.
Google now tries to keep out of these disputes by offering different maps for different regions. Check out the location of Arunachal Pradesh on Google.In to the left above, and then where it appears to on Google.cn to the right.
Source: Ogle Earth
A Nicaraguan commander told a newspaper that he had conducted a raid into Costa Rican territory after he looked at the (disputed) border on Google Maps.
Google's border was apparently off by 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles). After complaints from the Costa Rican government, Google updated their map.
'(The map) is devoid of truth and reality, and professionally irresponsible, if not pretentious,' Svay Sitha, secretary of state of the Cambodia's Council of Ministers, wrote in a letter to Google.
The problem related to the sovereignty of an 11th century Preah Vihear temple which is a cause for nationalists in both Cambodia and Thailand.
Google has since updated the border.
The tiny, uninhabited islands, known as Perejil in Spain and Leila in Morocco, almost caused a war between the nations in 2002, but under a U.S.-baked deal their status was officially left 'under review'.
Then, in 2010, Google stepped in. The islands currently do not list a country.
Source: Associated Press
Officials in the German down of Emden were forced to complain after Google gave their harbor to Holland in 2011.
Google's map showed the border -- which technically goes down the centre of an estuary between Germany and the Netherlands -- hugging the coast of Germany and even going right into the harbor of the German town of Emden.
This meant any boats in the harbor there were technically in Dutch waters, according to Google.
A Google spokesperson blamed the problem on a long-running border dispute between Germany and the Netherlands. The border has since been updated.
The city apparently wasn't too happy that tourists scoping out maps for the Olympics and the World Cup would see the city's slums before they saw its attractions.
Now even the biggest Favelas (such as Rocinha, which has over 60,000 residents) can only be seen if you zoom further in.
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