Home China Goes After “Illegal” Online Maps

China Goes After “Illegal” Online Maps

Xinhua, the Chinese news outlet, is reporting this morning that the Chinese government will be implementing new standards that are aimed at preventing “state secrets being disclosed and uncertified maps published online.”

The rules are an update to standards adopted one year ago, and, according to the Xinhua article, require “all Internet map servers to keep servers storing map data inside the country and provide public Internet protocol addresses.” We have to wonder how might this affect Google and the location-based-services market in China.

The updated rules will also require that all map servers must “have no record of information leakage in any form in the past three years,” and violations exposing state secrets can receive jail sentences of seven to 10 years. The new rules, the article states, also pertain to maps downloaded or copied to mobile devices.

Hiding government sites from online maps is certainly nothing new, but the Xinhua article makes several points that make us wonder what new implications these regulations might have.

For example, it mentions that the new rules require “all Internet map servers to keep servers storing map data inside the country and provide public Internet protocol addresses”. How will this affect Google, which just recently moved its servers to Hong Kong? How will other maps services, such as Bing Maps, be affected?

The article also mentions “a Japanese who measure 195 locations inside Longyan and located 80 of them on his map” who received “administrative punishment”. Is China looking to effectively outlaw the LBS boom we’ve seen in the U.S. and other countries? It would seem so. The article gives another example, citing “three Germans who collected geographihc information […] and later mapped these in computers.” Heck, we do that daily with applications like Gowalla and Foursquare.

Internet censorship is nothing new, but it surely sounds like these rules are about to step it up a notch. China is the world’s largest mobile market and geo-locational technologies are booming, but these new regulations could have some serious effects.

We asked Google if it had any comment on how this might affect its operations there, but have not yet received any response.

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