November 8, 2010

Nicaragua and Costa Rica Seek Mediation Thanks to Google Maps

By Art Hinshaw

Wired magazine reports that Nicaragua and Costa Rica are calling on the Organization of American States and/or the UN Security Council to mediate a border dispute.  It seems that the Nicaraguan military “accidentally” invaded Costa Rica because of an error on Google Maps.  According to the Wired story:

Last week, Nicaraguan troops crossed the border, took down a Costa Rican flag and defiantly raised their own flag on Costa Rican turf.  [T]he troops’ commander, Eden Pastora, told a Costa Rican newspaper, La Nacion, that his invasion was not his fault, because Google Maps mistakenly said the territory belonged to Nicaragua.  Government officials in Nicaragua have also blamed a “bug in Google” for the error. . . . . “Costa Rica is seeing its dignity smeared and there is a sense of great national urgency,” said Costa Rica’s President Laura Chinchilla.

The search giant has owned up and admitted to its mistake, saying that an error, by up to 2.7 kilometers, arose in the compilation of the border source data with the US Department of State. It has now received correct and accurate data, and is working on updating the map.

When I first read this I thought this had to be a fake story from the famed humor magazine the Onion.  But to the chagrin of the two countries, it’s true.  And, there’s more.  Is this “my bad” explanation  from Google Maps’ Charlie Hale priceless or what?

Once our [corrections] 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.

Forest, these are the trees.  Trees, this is the forest.

Last 5 posts by Art Hinshaw

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