Google Deals with Disputed Borders and Place Names in Google Earth and Maps

Google wrote "Collecting and sharing the most accurate information about place names and borders is a tough task that every map maker faces. The first sources are the nations themselves, but when neighboring countries claim overlapping territories and conflicting place names, even showing the dispute on a map may be prohibited by local law. We continue to work hard on these issues, and thought it would be worth sharing our general approach on this blog.

We want to be transparent about the principles we follow in designing our mapping products, particularly as they apply to disputed regions. Last year, for example, we explained how we determine the names for bodies of water in Google Earth. For each difficult case, we gather a cross-functional group of Googlers including software engineers, product managers, GIS specialists, policy analysts, and geopolitical researchers. This process benefits from the local knowledge and experience of Googlers around the world.

We follow a hierarchy of values to inform our depictions of geopolitically sensitive regions:

Google’s mission: In all cases we work to represent the "ground truth" as accurately and neutrally as we can, in consistency with Google’s mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. We work to provide as much discoverable information as possible so that users can make their own judgments about geopolitical disputes. That can mean providing multiple claim lines (e.g. the Syrian and Israeli lines in the Golan Heights), multiple names (e.g. two names separated by a slash: "Londonderry / Derry"), or clickable political annotations with short descriptions of the issues (e.g. the annotation for "Arunachal Pradesh," currently in Google Earth only; see blog post about disputed seas)."

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