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China takes big (yard)stick to mapping websites

Clandestine cartography threatens state security

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China has announced it will come down hard on "mapping websites and other online geographical information" which it believes may pose a threat to national security.

The official China Daily said that "eight government agencies, including the foreign ministry, are to tighten supervision of geographical information available online", according to AFP. Min Yiren, deputy director with the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping, confirmed that there are almost 10,000 websites containing illicit cartography, and that the state will "close down most of them as they show maps without approval".

Min explained: "Some websites publish sensitive or confidential geographical information, which might leak state secrets and threaten security." He added that websites daring to name Taiwan as a separate country will likewise face the chop.

As is the local custom, the powers that be have set up a "grass up a map abuser" hotline for concerned comrades to report infractions.

The latest move comes after China got heavy on what it considers illegal on-the-ground mapping activities. It has already ordered foreigners "who engage in surveying and mapping to obtain approval from the government and accept supervision" under threat of severe punishment if they fail to toe the line.

Chinese partners or translators assisting outsiders also face a fine if they fail to report illegal activity. ®

Bootnote

Long-term readers will recall that China's state security has already been well and truly undermined by Google Earth, as the strange case of Huangyangtan shows.

While the Chinese are pretty well powerless to stop the search monolith exposing their secrets, they did apparently succeed in getting Google to carelessly mislay Tibet.

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