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  • 03.23.16

Google plays both sides when it comes to border disputes

Google Maps and Google Earth display disputed borders differently depending on who’s looking. Writes Ethan R. Merel, author of a new research paper:

If a border is disputed by two or more states, the border as seen on Google’s services will adhere to the beliefs of Country A when accessed from within that country, while simultaneously adhering to the beliefs of Country B when accessed on its local servers.

According to Merel’s research, Google has said that it would prefer to rely on information from the United Nations to settle border issues, but “U.N. publications are both insufficiently detailed and often officially neutral on questions of toponymy.” That puts Google in a difficult position: It can either rely on outdated, low-quality cartography from the U.N., or it can wade into geopolitics on its own. RP