Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Did Google Maps cause an international border dispute?

        Tech | Other Software

Google Maps may take you down a wrong street occasionally, but when it comes to a country's borders, the stakes are much higher.
Google Maps may take you down a wrong street occasionally, but when it comes to a country's borders, the stakes are much higher.
©iStockphoto.com/Robert Corse

Google Maps is big. Huge. And there's one problem with being a company as massive as Google: People take you very seriously. Sometimes, Google Maps makes mistakes that don't matter much in the long run. It gives poor directions or miscalculates a distance. It has outdated satellite imagery. Most of the time those errors don't matter -- but sometimes small errors in Google Maps can lead to big consequences.

Just as the Google homepage dominated the Web search arena before it, Google Maps has become the go-to map tool for millions of Internet users all over the world since its introduction in 2005. Over the years, Google has expanded Maps to include traffic information, satellite imagery, and a wealth of information about businesses, tourist destinations and public transportation. Google Maps for Android works with the Google Navigation app to provide Android users with free GPS directions. In 2010, the mobile version of Google Maps surpassed 100 million monthly users [source: GoogleMobile].

In late 2010, Google was dragged into a border dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica because its map data was cited as a reliable guideline for the border between the two countries. Google had it wrong, leading to an armed standoff at the border between the two nations. But was it really Google's fault? Not entirely.


More to Explore