It is no secret that the relations between Taiwan and China are not without problems. However what about the relations between Taiwan and online mapping services? In fact Google Earth recently carried out an update which inopportunely exposed a military base and some of the country’s other classified buildings.
A seemingly normal update
An article from the daily newspaper South China Morning Post from Hong Kong published on the 16th February revealed a disagreement between Taiwan and Google. More precisely this disagreement was due to a problem with Google Earth’s mapping program. This mapping program, as everyone knows, is based on aerial photographs and satellite images. However a problem arose after a simple update following a collaboration between Google Maps and a group from Taiwan. The aim of the update was to create new maps which would show public spaces in cities like Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan and Taichung.
However things did not go as smoothly as expected. After the updates were carried out on Google Earth, the country’s secret military bases were then exposed to the pubic via the 3D mode. This included the National Security Office, the Military Intelligence Office and a base in Ankeng (Taipei) which houses Patriot missiles.
The army should justify itself
This is not the first time that Taiwan and online mapping service have come to a disagreement like this. In 2016, Google Earth exposed images of the military base on the Island of Taiping (or Itu Aba) while in 2012 Apple Maps exposed another military installation near to Hsinchu in 2012.
Taiwan takes these breeches of secret information seriously especially considering the existing geopolitical tensions with China. However following this error, the Taiwanese army will also be held accountable for the lack of camouflage of these at-risk sites. Asked by the South China Morning Post, Taiwan’s Defense Minister Yen Te-Fa stated that most of the secrets are inside the structures, and are therefore not visible on Google Earth.