BEIJING - An updated standard for Internet map servers will be implemented next month to avoid State secrets being disclosed and uncertified maps published online, authorities have said.
The new standard issued by the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping, one year after the first standard was launched, requires all Internet map servers to keep servers storing map data inside the country and provide public Internet protocol addresses.
Under the latest standard, qualified online map servers must have no record of information leakage in any form in the past three years.
The new regulation includes all maps downloaded or copied from the Internet onto cell phones and handheld computers.
By the end of December, the authorities will also crack down on unregistered or illegal Internet map servers and release the blacklist to the public.
Song Chaozhi, deputy director of the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping, said in a conference on Internet map services in Beijing on May 14 that there are two main problems existing in the field: One is publishing maps with wrong locations or information, and the other is leaking sensitive information involving State secrets on maps.
All these will harm consumers' rights or even endanger national security, he said.
Cases of illegal mapping are not rare in the country.
The national surveying and mapping bureau reportedly punished three Germans who collected geographic information in Yichang, Hubei province and later mapped these in computers.
Similarly, the Longyan bureau of land and resources in Fujian province reportedly meted out administrative punishment to a Japanese who measured 195 locations inside Longyan and located 80 of them on his map.
In April 2010, the Shenzhen land planning and supervision team detected a website named Moon-bbs.com, where confidential geographic information including military airports and locations of nuclear test explosions were published.
The website was reportedly linked to the server of a foreign map website, where users can scan high-definition satellite pictures worldwide free of charge and mark the location or relevant information of a military site on it.
Satellite pictures cannot be called electronic maps because no coordinates are marked, but in this case, when users marked coordinates of military sites, it can reveal state secrets, experts said.
In another website called Godeyes, a well-known portal based on Google Earth with 440,000 registered users, people can pilot virtual planes from Nanning, capital of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, to Beijing.
China has about 42,000 Internet map websites and as the number grows, more cases of information leakage reportedly occur.
Anyone who violates the State Secrets Law or reveals State secrets can be jailed up to seven years, or up to 10 years if the crime involves military secrets.
Many analysts said the new regulation will impact Internet map servers significantly.
Edward Yu, president of Analysys International, said the issue will involve balance or competition between the government and Internet map servers.
Workers from online search engine Google and communications giant Nokia said they have not heard of the regulation and have no comments on its impact.
"If it's about natural fields rather than cities, satellite mapping information can be sensitive and State secrets such as military bases may be exposed," said Chu Xiaowen, assistant professor of the department of computer science in Baptist University in Hong Kong.
"That's quite normal for any country. No one would agree to put its own map information in other countries," said Li Zhilin, professor of the department of land surveying and geo-informatics at Polytechnic University of Hong Kong.
Guo Jiaxue in Hong Kong contributed to this story
(China Daily 05/19/2010 page3)