The Indian government has prepared a draft law that if implemented will make it mandatory for maps and navigation services like Google Maps, Apple Maps or Here Maps to secure a licence from the government for operating in India. Under the draft bill, those violating the law will be slapped with a fine ranging from Rs 1 crore to Rs 100 crore and/or jail for up to seven years. The government has put the draft bill for comments from public until next month. The law, if implemented, could have big implications on the current maps services used by millions of users in India. Here are a few important things you need to understand about the draft bill. Also Read - Samsung Galaxy Chromebook Go powered by Intel Jasper Lake Celeron processor revealedAlso Read - Free COVID-19 vaccine: Today’s Google Doodle urges all to get vaccinated, wear mask
Before we further elaborate, let us give you a little background. It is not the first time services like Google Maps have come under scanner in India. Back in 2014, investigation agency CBI had launched a probe into Google Maps alleged irregularities in Mapathon 2013. Google was accused of running the Mapping competition without requisite government permissions and that was in violation of Survey of India (SoI) laws. After a couple of years, CBI reportedly called off the probe citing lack of adequate evidence to corroborate the allegations. Also Read - HP Chromebook 11a review: Great for students, not so for professionals
Another similar recent incident took place when the Delhi High Court asked the Indian government to investigate into Google Maps showing Indian defence installations, nuclear power plants and other sensitive areas. Google was accused of showing detailed high resolution images of Pathankot Air Base and surrounding areas on its Google Earth and Maps. The company also accused of masking sensitive data in China and the US, but not doing the same for India.
The new draft bill, ‘The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016‘, basically aims to regularize these critical information on these Maps services that affect the security, sovereignty and integrity” of the country. Looking at the controversies in the past and government s troubles with ensuring correct representations of the Indian territories on, the new draft bill kind of makes sense. But at the same time it is set to give a big headache to online maps and navigation services.
Any person who wants to acquire, disseminate, publish or distribute any geospatial information of India, may make an application alongwith requisite fees to the Security Vetting Authority for security vetting of such geospatial information and licence thereof to acquire, disseminate, publish or distribute such Geospatial Information in any electronic or physical form, says the draft bill.
This essentially means anyone offering maps service need to get licence from the government and get it approved. Also in case of any addition or update, these services will need to get it approved from the concerned authority.
Licensee shall not acquire, publish, disseminate or distribute any geospatial information of India through any media or by any means, unless such geospatial information are security-vetted by the Security Vetting Authority, it adds.
Geospatial information basically refers to data about boundaries or anything that can be represented by numerical values in a geographic coordinate system collected through any medium including space, UAVs, satellites and balloons among others.
The government has proposed hefty penalty for the violators. Those who depict, disseminate, publish or distribute any wrong or false topographic information of India, including international boundaries through internet platforms or online services or in any electronic or physical form could be slapped with a fine ranging from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 100 crore while jail term upto 7 years.
While the government s intentions may be noble to avert misuse of the sensitive data, such strict bill may make it more difficult for service providers to operate in the country. There s no dispute to the fact that the Indian territories should be correctly depicted and that sensitive locations should be masked, but at the same time the process of granting licences should be quick and transparent for everyone. Also at the same time, there s no clarity on how much control this Security Vetting Authority will have in terms of altering the Maps and data on it.
It might sound as going back to the license raj era, but this is just a draft bill and it isn’t the law, yet. BGR India has reached out to Google for comment.