Google Maps error sparks international conflict
The correct border shown on Bing Maps and, inset, the incorrect version shown on Google Maps
Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega, left, speaks during a press conference next to the Secretary General of the Organisation of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, centre, and Nicaragua's Chief of the Army Cesar Aviles on Saturday
November 8, 2010
A Google Maps error is being blamed for Nicaraguan troops accidentally invading Costa Rica last week.
The troops have been accused of crossing the hotly disputed Nicaragua border into Costa Rica and setting up camp for the night after taking down a Costa Rican flag and raising the Nicaraguan flag.
But their commander, Eden Pastora, told Costa Rica's largest newspaper, La Nacion, that Google Maps was used to justify the incursion. Nicaraguan government officials have also blamed a "bug in Google" for the error.
The dispute has become so serious that the Secretary-General of the Organisation of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, has flown to the two countries to help solve the conflict. He is expected to report on his progress on Tuesday.
"We are concerned about finding paths of communication to be able to seek a peaceful solution between Costa Rica and Nicaragua," Insulza said in a statement.
On Saturday, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla said she was prepared to take the dispute to the UN Security Council if the OAS cannot find a solution.
"Costa Rica is seeing its dignity smeared and there is a sense of great national urgency [to resolve this problem]," Chinchilla said after meeting Insulza.
In a blog post at the weekend, Google geopolicy analyst Charlie Hale confirmed the error, which misplaced the border between the two countries.
The error lies in Google's depiction of the border in part of the Caribbean coast, near the San Juan River, the centre of the dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua that arose over the latter's dredging of a river separating the two countries.
"This morning, after a discussion with the data supplier for this particular border [the US Department of State], we determined that there was indeed an error in the compilation of the source data, by up to 2.7 kilometres," Hale wrote.
"The US Department of State has provided a corrected version and we are now working to update our maps."
While the border between the countries was displayed incorrectly by Google Maps, the version on Microsoft's Bing maps was accurate.
There has been much historical conflict - going back to the mid-19th century - over which country owns land near the San Juan River.
However, a treaty between Costa Rica and Nicaragua has been in place since 1858 and details the border line accepted by both sides. In 1888, US president Grover Cleveland was called in to arbitrate the dispute and he decided to uphold the 1858 treaty and its terms. A more detailed map of the boundary was drawn in 1897 at the request of Cleveland.
Hale said Google's map of the area would be corrected to follow the demarcation laid out in 1897.
"Once our updates go live in Google Earth and Maps we will be depicting the border according to the most recent and definitive records available. But as we know, cartography is a complex undertaking and borders are always changing. We remain committed to updating our maps as needed," Hale wrote.
The Nicaraguan government demanded that Google reject Costa Rica's request to change the depiction of the border, which it called "correct".
"I officially request that [the border marking] not be modified," Foreign Minister Samuel Santos asked Google representative Jeffrey Hardy.
Last Tuesday, Costa Rica, which does not have an army, dispatched fresh security forces to the border to bolster 150 agents sent earlier to the region, the scene of increasingly heated cross-border tensions since October 18.
This year Google was accused of showing an erroneous version of the border between Cambodia and Thailand.
Google Maps Mistake: Nicaragua Accused Of Invading Costa Rica
Let's hope they have South-North Korea down