• United States



by Paul Kerstein

Google Seeks Talks With Taiwan Over Maps

Oct 06, 20054 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

Google Inc. has been in touch with Taiwanese representatives in SanFrancisco to work on resolving a dispute over the island’s listing inGoogle Maps, which refers to it as “Taiwan, Province of China.”

Taiwanese officials insist its name should read simply “Taiwan,”leaving out the reference to China. The name issue has remained a smallbut important cold-war battleground between China and Taiwan ever sincethe two split in 1949 after a bitter civil war won by the CommunistParty.

One Taiwanese political party has even been trying to stir up a publice-mail protest against Google Maps over the issue, telling the island’s23 million citizens to make their voices heard by writing to thecompany.

“We’ve already received a few e-mails,” a Google spokeswoman saidWednesday. “But until today, we had not received any communication fromTaiwanese officials regarding this matter. We made contact with themthis morning and look forward to hearing and understanding theirconcerns.”

Taiwanese officials have said they first contacted Google last month,and then instructed a Taiwanese representative office in San Franciscoa few days ago to raise the issue again.

The matter could take some time to resolve. While the Googlespokeswoman indicated that the company tries to be flexible in namedisputes, it generally follows international naming conventions, suchas ISO-3166. The company also has to consider China’s response.

Google Earth and Google Maps use short, user-friendly name labels onthe maps, she said. But for some searches on Google Maps only, anotherrendering appears in the corner of the screen. In this case it is”Taiwan, Province of China.”

Google insists that it uses internationally authoritative sources tocome up with the tags, to remain consistent in its name choices. TheUnited Nations, for example, officially uses “Taiwan Province ofChina,” according to the U.N. Web site.

Taiwan and China have been fighting for years over the name issue.China demands that the world recognize Taiwan as a part of China, its”One-China” policy, and works diligently at ensuring internationalgroups such as the United Nations don’t recognize the island as aseparate political entity. China threatened years ago to attack Taiwanif it declares independence.

On Taiwan’s part, the island has distanced itself from China in recentyears, in an effort to maintain its self-rule and continue itsdevelopment as a high tech center and one of the most vibrantdemocracies in Asia. People on the island argue that despite China’seconomic development, it still denies freedoms of speech and of thepress, denies the right to establish new political parties, and isoften named as an abuser of human rights.

In the past, Google has compromised on names to keep the peace among users of its mapping services.

On Google Earth, which shows satellite imagery maps and has more roomfor labels, the company used to refer to the “Sea of Japan,” todescribe the sliver of ocean between the southern tip of Korea andlower Japan. South Korean activists asked for the name to be changed toits preference, the “East Sea.” Google finally determined to put both”East Sea” and “Sea of Japan” together for the label.

Google Maps, which is still gathering detailed maps from around theworld, is designed to help people find their way around, and locationdata comes mainly from local map makers, the Google spokeswoman said.Google Earth is different in that it’s meant to present clear satelliteimages of the world, with graphics that reveal specific geographicfeatures.

Google Maps still refers to the “Sea of Japan” in Japanese, and not the”East Sea.” There is no English reference to that body of water.

By Dan Nystedt – IDG News Service (Taipei Bureau)