Sunday, November 07, 2010

Did Google almost start a war?

Well, they certainly went to great lengths to explain an error in Google Maps which saw a Nicaraguan military unit on the wrong side of Nicaragua's border with defenseless Costa Rica.

Yesterday we became aware of a dispute that referenced the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua as depicted on Google Maps. This morning, after a discussion with the data supplier for this particular border (the U.S. Department of State), we determined that there was indeed an error in the compilation of the source data, by up to 2.7 kilometers. The U.S. Department of State has provided a corrected version and we are now working to update our maps.
Hmmm. That would be a bad thing if the Nicaraguan military was relying on Google Maps for accurate movement along the disputed border.
The international media ran with it and Google Maps was held out as the reason Eden Pastora, commander of a river dredging operation, had made an encampment on the wrong side of the border.

Except, that isn't really the case. Pastora denies the Google connection. He says that he was on Nicaraguan territory as prescribed by the Canas-Jerez Treaty of 1858. In short, Nicaragua claims sovereignty over the Rio San Juan.

So then Google jumps a little further and says they are going to change their map tout de suite.

Unlike the image above of our current depiction, the corrected version will follow the east bank of the San Juan River going northward, nearly to the Caribbean. It will then turn eastward and follow the southern shoreline of a large lagoon, Laguna los Portillos. This depiction follows the demarcation laid out in the First Award of Arbitration of 1897, which affirmed the Cañas-Jerez Treaty of 1858.
Hmmm. Not so fast there nerdville. This border dispute is long and complicated. And while Nicaragua was chastized by the UN for not meeting its obligations under the arbitrated Canas-Jerez Treaty, the sovereignty of the area is still pretty questionable.
But now Google has another problem. Nicaragua is saying the original Google Map is correct and not to make the changes described above. In fact, the border question is presently before the Organization of American States for resolution.

But here's where we are. Some yob in San Jose, after being apprised of the Nicaraguan encampment, (led by former guerrilla leader Commander Cero), takes a look at a Google Map and complains that Costa Rica has been invaded by Nicaragua, probably due to an error on that Google Map. (Hey! It's a mistake. Correct the map and Pastora will move out.)

Google gets all embarrassed and contrite, blames the US State Department for feeding them faulty information and offers to change the map.

Pastora snorts the thing off and holds out a 152 year old treaty suggesting that he didn't use Google Maps at all.

Nicaragua raises hell with Google for offering to change a map which the Nicaraguan government says is actually correct.

This will give rise to a whole new entity in the nerd world: Google Diplomacy.

And the global media is still wiping the egg off their faces.

Image courtesy of Search Engine Land.


rww said...

I can just see the Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador governments both running to Google Maps to see which side they favour.

Catelli said...

I find it completely incomprehensible that anyone accepts that a nation or military leader would be relying on Google Maps for anything.

Next we'll have a war in South-east Asia over a Wikipedia entry made by a teenager in St. John.

Dave said...

Yeah, that kind of shook me too. When I read the original article associated with this I found it difficult to believe anyone would rely on Google Maps for anything except finding a gas station.