Updated | Nov. 6, 2010, 7:00 p.m.: Search Engine Land is reporting that the U.S. is to blame for the boundary error. In a blog post regarding the border dispute, Google says, “The U.S. Department of State has provided a corrected version and we are now working to update our maps.”
Following CEO Eric Schmidt’s recent foray into foreign affairs, Google now finds itself at the center of a brewing international incident between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
A Nicaraguan commander, Eden Pastora, recently ventured into the Costa Rican territory bordering the San Juan River and ordered his troops to replace the Costa Rican flag with a Nicaraguan one. As startling as this maneuver was, what has really unsettled observers is the unwitting cause for Pastora’s misguided adventure: Google Maps. Pastora recently told La Nación, a Costa Rican newspaper,
See the satellite photo on Google and there you see the border. In the last 3,000 meters the two sides are from Nicaragua. (Translation via Search Engine Land)
It’s important to note that both countries’ official maps show this tract of land as belonging to Costa Rica.
Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla urged his citizens to remain “calm and firm, amid the outrage that these events provoke within us,” in a televised address Wednesday night. Meanwhile, the country, which has no formal military, has asked the Organization of American States to mediate.
According to the Wall Street Journal’s Tech Europe blog, the border dispute between the two countries has rapidly escalated over the past several days with Costa Rica’s deputy foreign minister formally requesting that Google amend its maps to recognize his country’s sovereignty. In response, Nicaragua requested that Google not “modify the … demarcation … that corresponds to the various treaties that define the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border.”
Over at Mother Jones, Adam Weinstein asks:
Is Google the new United Nations? Two countries have a dispute about national sovereignty, and both stake their cases on the correctness/falseness of a map published by the daddy of the dot-coms. Google has become an arbiter not just of global culture, but global politics.
This is not the first time that Google Maps has been drawn into a land dispute between two sovereign states. Most recently, Cambodia accused Google Maps of “radically misleading” users with its representation of the country’s border with Thailand this past February.
A Google spokeswoman told CNN that, “It’s inevitable that there will be occasional errors in that data, but when we find these errors, we work to update them as quickly as possible.