Illegal mapping hotline fails to ignite interest

By Wang Qian (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-04-26 08:12
Large Medium Small

BEIJING - A new hotline that people can use to report illegal mapping services has been decidedly cold since its launch on April 21.

An official from the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping, who insisted on anonymity, told China Daily on Monday that nobody has contacted either the hotline or a new e-mail address to report any infractions.

The hotline and e-mail address are both available to people wanting to report illegal online mapping services that contain erroneous information or the locations of such places as military bases and military airports.

A statement released by the bureau on Monday said a smooth reporting channel is guaranteed and any reports from the public will be handled immediately. It said serious problems flagged via the hotline and e-mail address will be shared with the public.

The hotline and e-mail are part of a national campaign to crack down on illegal mapping services that was jointly launched by the bureau and 12 other governmental bodies, including the Ministry of Public Security and the State Secrecy Bureau in March.

Related readings:
Illegal mapping hotline fails to ignite interest Nation charts course to end illegal mapping
Illegal mapping hotline fails to ignite interest China launches its own online mapping service

With online mapping services booming in China, cases of illegal mapping are also on the rise and some are even said to threaten national security.

Three German citizens who illegally collected geographic information in Yichang, Hubei province, in May 2009 and uploaded the information onto computers were fined by the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping. Their mapping equipment was also confiscated.

Online mapping software such as Google Earth has reportedly posed security threats in many countries because of its highly detailed maps, satellite images and other online information. The United Kingdom forced Google to remove some images from its Street View service because they breached the UK's Official Secrets Act, the Independent reported in March 2009.

Du Wenlong, an expert with the Academy of Military Sciences of the People's Liberation Army, told Beijing Sci-Tech Report earlier this month that the key to success with current missile technology is to obtain the coordinates of your target and such online mapping services offer an easy way to do that.

According to the latest statistics from the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping, as of March, it had found more than 14,000 websites in China that were offering mapping services.

Li Jingwei, general manager of Star Geomatics Park Investment Co Ltd, said some people have no awareness of the importance of geographic information and mark confidential locations online.

The bureau began supervising online mapping services in May 2009 and called on companies offering such products to apply for a license before March 31 if they want to continue their business in China.

So far, about 105 domestic and overseas companies have received licenses and another 100 are in the process of applying.

The State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping hasn't received an application from Google, which offers extensive mapping services, according to an official who insisted on anonymity.

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