Google forcing discrimination against US territories

by Jul 31, 2018Economy0 comments

A quick Wikipedia search of the United States yields the following definition: “a federal republic composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions.” This definition very linearly reflects the unity of the 50 states and the US territories. Google Maps, however, maintains a different definition. When the same term is inputted into Google Maps, the map shows only the 50 states within the US border. In fact, Google’s “Quick Facts” about the US fail to even mention the US territories.

Whether intentional or not, this clear and distinct separation reflects an attitude of exclusion toward the US territories. At this time, Google could not be reached for a comment as to the motivations behind their current territory lines. Regardless of what the motivations might be, the effects are dire. The Google Maps template is utilized in a number of Google services, most notably AdWords. In AdWords, attempting to advertise to the US limits the audience to those within the 50 states.

Google is a dominant actor in a politically sensitive field. Google’s faulty data and erroneous borders can bring about issues of diplomacy within the international system. A clear example of this was in 2010, when faulty Google data attributed a part of Costa Rica to Nicaragua. The effects were dire still, as troops were deployed on the border until a correction alleviated tensions.

Clearly, stakes are often high, and penalties often harsh. In 2016, India drafted a bill that could impose a fine of up to $11.5 million for “wrong or false topographic information.” The bill was quickly killed, but the grave nature of universal cartography manifests itself in such legislation.

Attempting to chart disputed borders is always a tricky task for cartographers, especially within the digital age. However, the US territories and the states are lawfully recognized as a unit, so this exclusion, at best, seems senseless. Pragmatically, the effects of this border render the United States asunder.