Taiwan Reminds Apple of Political Aspect of Global Maps

Taiwan reminded Apple on Tuesday that there is a political aspect of running a global mapping service. The island nation asked Apple to blur images of a new early warning radar station from Apple Maps, the company's iOS mobile mapping service that launched with iOS 6.


According to the Associated Press, Taiwan Defence Ministry spokesman David Lo said that Apple should follow in the footsteps of Google, which uses only low-resolution imagery over "sensitive facilities."

As implied by Mr. Lo, these are lessons learned by Google and other global mapping services long ago, as governments around the world have requested and demanded that images of military facilities, government buildings, and other areas they prefer to keep semi-secret from the world be blurred, obfuscated, or even omitted from satellite images.

A story in 2008, for instance, had Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft all blurring then Vice President Dick Cheney's house from their respective mapping services. In January of 2009, those images were unblurred.

In 2007, The Telegraph reported (via GeoCarta blog) that some British bases in Iraq were being obscured. In 2008, China also demanded that Google blur satellite maps and remove information about government facilities from its various services. There are additional examples of this as the world settled around the availability of these services.

Back in Taiwan, the facility in question is a new US$1.4 billion radar facility that can reportedly detect aircraft and missiles come from as far away as western China. China and Taiwan have been in a cold (and sometimes not so cold) war for decades, as China says that Taiwan is a part of China, and Taiwan says "Nuh-uh!"

The facility isn't live yet, but is expected to be online before the end of 2012. 9to5Mac noted that low resolution images are what is now shown in Apple Maps, a change that apparently took place sometime on Tuesday.

At some point, Apple will have who wants what where, but we should expect further stories of this nature as the company builds its service. Doing so takes time and man-power, and no mapping service, not even Google Maps, was built in a day.

Image made with help from Shutterstock.