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Did Google Maps cause an international border dispute?

        Tech | Other Software

Google Maps Isn't 100 Percent Reliable
Dollart Bay sits between Germany and the Netherlands, but there is some dispute about where the boundary between the two countries should fall within the body of water.
Dollart Bay sits between Germany and the Netherlands, but there is some dispute about where the boundary between the two countries should fall within the body of water.
Screen capture by HowStuffWorks staff

Google Maps covers thousands of roads in hundreds of countries across the entire globe. All of that data comes from different sources, and Google compiles everything into a (hopefully) seamless and accurate map experience [source: Sutter]. Sometimes, however, that process doesn't quite work out perfectly.

Dollart Bay, located between Germany and the Netherlands, was the source of another disagreement. At one point, Google Maps showed the Dutch border extending into the bay and even reaching into the German port city of Emden [source: Jacobs]. The bay should be more evenly divided between the two countries. It reportedly took Google a long time to fix the issue -- when a story about the error was picked up by the media in March 2011, officials for the German city of Emden said they had alerted Google to the error more than a year earlier. Unlike the Nicaragua/Costa Rica situation, the map error in Dollart Bay didn't provoke an armed border conflict. Google has misplaced other borders, too -- so while Maps is a fantastic resource for driving directions and satellite imagery, it should never be used as an official source for something as important as a national border.

Nicaragua and Costa Rica would have been at odds even without Google's inaccurate map -- Nicaragua's government could have consulted other sources before dredging the San Juan River. At the same time, since Google Maps continues to be used by millions of people every month, so it's in the company's best interest to continually monitor and refine the accuracy of its maps and quickly respond to similar issues that arise in the future.


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