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BJP set to raise Google Mapathon in Parliament

April 07, 2013 12:13 IST

BJP has demanded a threadbare discussion on India's Map Policy in Parliament

The Bharatiya Janata Party has decided to escalate in the upcoming session of Parliament the issue of Google Mapathon sourcing information from people. The party believes Google has been trying to emasculate India’s sovereignty by not submitting to the directions of the Survey of India, the country’s official survey and mapping organisation.

The BJP leadership has demanded a threadbare discussion on India’s Map Policy in Parliament because sensitive information about defence installations is available on the internet -- against the laws of the country.

“This is a very serious issue and we will raise it in Parliament. There are sensitive information available, showing fighter jets at Ambala and Hindon airbases, information about bases of Navy. We want to know if collecting this kind of information is permissible by law. I have raised the issue with Defence Minister A K Antony twice but the government has not acted,” said Tarun Vijay, BJP’s Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha.

Google had started a contest inviting people to map their neighbourhood, promising gifts to winners. 

Vijay argued the Union government should view this as a clear case of “intelligence gathering”, because the defence ministry, home ministry and the Survey of India were informed about the Google Mapathon contest. However, Congress ministers, as well as office bearers of the party, had no comment to offer on the issue.

A Google spokesperson said, “The Survey of India contacted Google regarding the Mapathon contest on March 22, and, as requested by them, we responded to them on March 25, offering to meet and discuss their concerns. We have not heard from them since. We are always available to discuss any concern that they or other agencies might have regarding our programmes.”

Vijay said, “There are instances where one individual has collected information about 93,000 locations in the country. This is not the first time Google has not followed the norms. The issue of information about defence installations first came up in 2005; it has been happening repeatedly since.”

He pointed out Google was not allowed to collect similar data in the US, Switzerland or any other country; it should, likewise, comply with the Indian laws. The Opposition party clarified it was not against providing data about Parliament building or ministries, but it was opposing information on locations of strategic significance to the country’s security.

“We are not demanding Google be banned. We respect the right of free speech and expression. We want to raise the issue so that the government tells us if there are flaws in the law. If there is a need for a change in law, it should be discussed; but a company must not be allowed to collect such critical data till then. Our concern is about the information being collected and published by Google,” said the BJP leader. 

Vijay further demanded an explanation from the Union government for not registering a case against the company. “The Surveyor General of India has complained to the Delhi Police, but no case has been registered against the company till now. I have spoken to Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar; action has yet to be taken by the police or government.”