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Nicaragua Wants New Border Uses Google Maps Bug to Raise Flag in Costa Rica

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by hearit

hearit's picture
In The News

For anyone believing Google’s not that powerful, think again: it seems that the search engine giant is capable of not simply moving mountains, but rather entire countries. A Nicaraguan military troop commander says bad border denotations represented on “Google Maps” is to blame for an incursion into Costa Rica last week. Nicaragua likes the new “borders” and wants to keep those new lines drawn in the sand--or, at least, where it's stuck the new flag. Costa Rica's a bit ticked--the country with no army claiming "smeared dignity".

Despite existing, accurate maps of the layout--and Google's correction of its maps feature--both countries seem to be laying blame for the border rift.

It all started when Nicaragua’s military commander claims that a "bug in Google" prompted its country’s troops to enter an area near the long-contested border—then physically removing the country of Costa Rica's flag, and instead raising its own. Apparently that standing flag was no indicator to Nicaragua that, perhaps, a mix-up had come into play.

The Google "bug” over maps has grown into an outright monster--becoming an international event virtually overnight, and resulting in Organization of American States and UN Security Council involvement.

"We [Google] determined that there was indeed an error in the compilation of the source data, by up to 2.7 kilometers," blog writings by Charlie Hale, Google Geo Policy Analyst reflect: "The U.S. Department of State has provided a corrected [map] version and we are now working to update our [Google] maps."

The assertion of true boundaries, that Google’s Hale verified, does indeed match up to official maps of both Costa Rica and Nicaragua. So, logically, search giant Google went ahead and “fixed” its “Google Maps

As the saying goes, “you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”: in this instance, neither Google’s little “bug” or its fix doesn’t seem to pleasing anyone. Neither country is too happy at the moment.

Kind of like the neighbor that moves that fence line, it seems that Nicaragua was kind of enjoying the Google glitch—and would perhaps like to make it fact: AFP reports that the country of Nicaragua actually requested that Google not make the maps correction.

Yes it sounds ridiculous, and, yes, truth is sometimes far stranger than fiction: "I officially request that (the border marking) not be modified," Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Samuel Santos asked Google rep Jeffrey Hardy.

Even with the “Google Maps” correction made, and boundaries again defined, all is not well. Costa Rica, a country which has no military arm, is also taking issue with Google’s return to the norm.

"Costa Rica is seeing its dignity smeared [through the “Google Maps” glitch] and there is a sense of great national urgency," claims Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla during a weekend meeting with Organization of American States Secretary General Jose Manuel Insulza. While Costa Rica seems to portray itself as the more mild-mannered of the bunch, the country may have no official army but it's not shy: the country does have armed personnel with machine guns and M-16s at the ready.

The border between the countries of Costa Rica and Nicaragua has already been a sensitive topic, without cut-and-dry definitions. "The [border] dispute in this area goes back to at least the mid-19th century, and both the International Court of Justice and the United Nations have weighed in," on the issue, Hale comments via Google blog. "The [border] dispute [between Nicaragua and Costa Rica] mainly centers around control of the mouth of the San Juan River, and [the border location dispute] was recently reignited because of dredging activity in this location."

Basically, the argument over borders between the nations has been a longstanding topic for debate.

Earlier in 2010, the country of Cambodia was upset with search giant Google—the country severely unhappy with Google, for what it has deemed a "radically misleading" map of the Thai-Cambodia border. The Thai-Cambodia border has been an issue of dispute, an issue between the countries, for more than a century. Fortunately, no one was ripping out, or attempting to replace, either country’s flags—keeping the situation slightly less dramatic.

It appears that maps—like other things—are made to be “broken”. There’s a lot to keep track of in this big world, and Google’s been known to misplace a few United States cities in recent times.

Inhabitants of Sunrise, Florida—the Sunrise city with a population of only 90,000--weren’t too happy to find themselves “missing” from the map less than two months ago. The small Sunrise city claimed that its “missing” status from “Google Maps” was causing a specific economic downturn in September: "The fact that you have 'lost' our city [of Sunrise, Florida] is negatively impacting our businesses," Sunrise Mayor Mike Ryan wrote to Google CEO Eric Schmidt. "Losing a city such as ours also calls into question the efficacy of your company's search engine. You need to fix this problem immediately and permanently," came the big words from the small United States city. The most recent September 2010 Google Maps misplacement of Sunrise, claim the Florida city's business owners, is actually the fourth time the city has been "lost" by Google within 18 months.

Everything’s relative—and while Sunrise, Florida’s, Google Maps misplacement may have been vital to them, right now it’s not matching the misplacement of country borders: a “sleeping giant” has apparently been awakened in the Nicaragua-Costa Rican border issue or, at the least, the giant’s now got one eye open.

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