Google mapping party in Kerala raises security issues

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Feb 6 2010, 05:50am hrs
Indias second Google mapping party got underway amidst tight security following warnings by the state home intelligence. Many state departments, initially roped in for the community mapping workshop, decided to stay away.

Only 60 out of the expected 100 mappers logged in at the mapping workshop due to the apprehensions of the Kerala police revealing location details of sensititive institutions such as Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Southern Naval Command to public glare. Bhoomi Keralam, the IT arm of state revenue department, had originally signed up to sent 10 mappers, but it backed out of the commitment in a hurry. ADGP (Intelligence) Siby Mathews had come out with a public caution that detailed mapping could expose sites of strategic assets. We have huge reservations about the security hazards that this involves, he said.

Apparently, this is hardly a states security paranoia. Ajith Kumar, programme manager, Google Maps told FE that top officials of Google Inc have been talking at various levels in the government to sort out security concerns. In any case, communities who are doing the mapping have been told not to focus on sensitive areas, but to apply themselves on the task of mapping neighbourhoods. We will not encourage the mapping of vital installations on ethical basis, he added.

It is IEEE (The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), Kerala Section and CSI (The Computer Society of India), Thiruvananthapuram Chapter that partnered Google, in organising a Mapping Party at Kerala capital. The first Mapping Party, in Bangalore, had not made so many media ripples.

There are also concerns about the abuse that detailed Google maps could be put to. Not prepared to leave any stone unturned, the state police had its net of sleuths well spread among the audience to keep an eye on the mapping business.