India could make Google Maps illegal

India represented on Google Maps.
Screenshot from Google Maps

The Indian government wants to regulate the exchange of geolocation data. Services like Google Maps must obtain a license to map the country or face a fine of up to $15 million.

To protect India's “security, sovereignty and integrity,” the Indian government wants to regulate the way citizens and companies share their geolocation data, it said on Monday Economic Times. An invoice with a name Draft law to regulate geospatial information, which has been open for public consultation since May 4, requires any person or company wishing to map Indian territory to obtain a license from the government. Violators face a fine of 10 million rupees ($150,000), rising to 1 billion rupees ($15 million), and seven years in prison.

The government wants to regain control over the mapping of its territory. “We have to stop being exploited by Google. […] I congratulate the government for tackling the arrogance of these digital giants. “This bill sends a strong signal to American companies that do not take our internal security interests into account,” says Interior Minister Kiren Rijiju, who is primarily leading the fight against terrorism. “The Pathankot military base, which was recently attacked, was visible on Google Maps. Terrorists who attack sensitive websites prepare using Google Maps,” he added. The authorities are calling on “patriotic Indians” to take action Bhuvanthe national map application.

An obstacle to the country's digital activity

Many digital companies such as Apple, Google and Microsoft, each with hundreds of millions of users in the country, could be seriously impacted if they do not receive their license. Social networks and service applications such as Uber or Lyft would no longer be included, even though they all rely on geolocation. This law would also have consequences for Indian citizens. Sharing your geographical location with your friends or posting a geotagged photo would be a violation of the law. “We do not want to create obstacles to economic and technological development, but the issue of national security must not be jeopardized either,” assures the Indian Interior Minister.

This is not the first time that India has taken a stand against Google's geolocation service. EIn 2013, the National Geographic Institute of India filed a complaint against the American company The Mapathon competition asked users to enter the addresses of public places such as restaurants, hospitals or stores for the collaborative application Map Maker. The director of the institute believed at the time that this data threatened the country's security. According to him, users of the application could reveal sensitive information about possible security and defense facilities.