Google Maps error could result in war

Posted on November 16, 2010

 

Over the centuries there have been many different catalysts for human conflict. One of the most common causes of wars have been land disputes, but the most recent conflict could be about to start as the direct result of nothing more than an error by Google on its Google Maps product.

World War G

In what clearly has to go down as another ‘you couldn’t make it up’ story, a war is brewing between Costa Rica and Nicaragua over ownership of a stretch of land in Central America. Google Maps showed a section of land as belonging to Nicaragua, when in fact it is part of Costa Rica. Now Nicaragua wants to claim the land, and Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega has refused to defuse the situation by removing his country’s soldiers from the area.

Google shows Costa Rican land belonging to Nicaragua

The Organisation of American States (OAS) has intervened and has ordered both Costa Rica and Nicaragua to meet to discuss the land, but that intervention has been dismissed by Ortega as simply making the situation worse. Costa Rica meanwhile believes the intervention was a victory for diplomacy, and wants to meet with Nicaragua.

Google has blamed the error on faulty data, and has updated its Google Maps to show Costa Rica as owning the land.

Daniel Ortega, the president of Nicaragua, commented:

“That OAS meeting completely killed the possibility of dialogue. They killed it because they started to establish conditions. I repeat, on a matter of principle, we are not leaving any area within Nicaraguan territory along the borders with our brotherly nations of Costa Rica and Honduras, nor are we pulling any of our forces from any maritime borders. Not the army, not the police who are in the fight against drug trafficking.”

According to a local newspaper, a Nicaraguan official used Google Maps to decide whether to send troops to the river on the Costa Rican border to complete a dredging project. However, it transpired that the information on Google Maps was incorrect, and Costa Rica took the presence of the soldiers to be the first signs of an invasion.

To make matters worse, the two countries have been contesting ownership of the land for 200 years – and Google’s mistake in showing Nicaragua as owning the land merely served to stoke up the bitter dispute. Google claims its mistake was as a result of using data from the US State Department.

Costa Rica meanwhile has dispatched 70 of its police officers to a nearby town in readiness for the Nicaraguan invasion.

We’re not certain if Tony Blair ever used Google Maps before deciding on the invasion of Iraq.

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