China charts course to end illegal mapping

13:34, March 24, 2011      

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China is launching a national campaign this year to crack down on illegal online mapping services with the aim of reducing the amount of sensitive and confidential information revealed by the sites.

The State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping said in a statement on its official website last week that the crackdown will lead to the shutting down of some mapping websites.

The statement said all published maps that have severe problems, such as wrong information, will be destroyed. Bookstores selling unlicensed maps will also be told to stop.

The plan for the supervision of online mapping services was drawn up by a team comprising staff from the bureau and 12 other government bodies, including the Ministry of Public Security and the State Secrecy Administration.

The plan calls not only for an end to the publication of maps containing sensitive or confidential information but also for the stamping out of businesses offering mapping services that have not been examined or those that have been examined but that have failed to make called-for amendments.

The plan also calls on the local authorities to make it easy for the public to report illegal mapping services.

Cases of illegal mapping are not rare in the country. The bureau punished three Germans who illegally collected geographic information in Yichang, Hubei province, and who later mapped the information on computers.

China has about 42,000 websites offering maps. According to a report by China Radio International, the growing number of unregulated mapping companies means more cases of information leakage are happening.

The statement said the crackdown will lead to more regulation of companies offering mapping services and will effectively curb illegal mapping, which will further protect national sovereignty and security.

Li Jingwei, general manager of Star Geomatics Park Investment Co Ltd, told China Daily on Tuesday the illegal mapping services exist mainly because the mapping industry is in its infancy and few people know about the legal process they should follow if they want to provide mapping services.

"Many mapping providers don't know the importance of mapping services and that is part of the problem," Li said.

He added that the crackdown will help the healthy development of the country's mapping industry.

The bureau started supervising online mapping services in May. It is calling on companies offering the services to apply for a license before March 31 if they want to continue.

More than 100 domestic and overseas companies that provide online mapping services have so far received licenses allowing them to continue. Another 100 are in the process of applying. Google, which offers extensive mapping services, is understood not to have applied, according to an earlier report.

The bureau said it will take action after July 1 against any unlicensed mapping service providers.

Song Chaozhi, deputy director of the bureau, said in a news release in January that the bureau will formulate favorable policies for the development of the country's online mapping service industry, which is expected to grow by 25 percent each year.

Source: China Daily
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