In case you needed more evidence in this “Google isn’t perfect” file, the most popular search engine in the world has made a mistake. (Gasp!) Or, if you come down on the “Google is now trying to be evil” side of the debate, they’re trying to provoke international conflict by changing borders.
Google Earth underwent a routine update this week. As part of that update, it renamed areas of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh—in Chinese. This is particularly bad because China disputes that border, and have actually claimed portions of Arunachal Pradesh as South Tibet. (However, Arunachal Pradesh is administered internally as an Indian state.)
A Google spokesman responded in a statement:
Earlier, this week, as part of routine update to Google earth, we published new data for the Arunachal Pradesh region that changed the depiction of certain place names in the product. The change was a result of a mistake in our processing of new map data. . . .
We are in the process of reverting the data to its previous state and expect the change to be visible in the product shortly. . . .
We would like to clarify that this issue did not impact our depiction of international borders.
I know, I know, despite my title, they’re not sorry, and they claim not to have changed the borders. Instead, they just gave places in Arunachal Pradesh Chinese names. Like, you know, South Tibet. (Kidding. I’m sure they didn’t do that.)
What do you think? Has Google earth gained so much currency that they could actually precipitate an international incident? Or is this a sign that we’ve reached a new era of understanding, where we can solve border disputes through the source of all our answers (you know, Google)?