Google Maps Error Dispute Continues To Escalate Between Nicaragua And Costa Rica

from the the-map-error-that-starts-a-war dept

We recently wrote about a dispute between Costa Rica and Nicragua, after a Nicraguan military official and his troops accidentally “invaded” Costa Rica allegedly relying on Google Maps, which placed the border between the two countries in the wrong place (oops). However, what’s amazing to me is that the story has continued to escalate. Even though Costa Rica has no standing army, it mobilized its police force to go to that area, and now both sides are being urged to back down. Obviously, Costa Rica feels that this was much more than a Google Maps error (since corrected, by the way). Nicaraguan officials are now claiming that they didn’t actually rely on Google Maps (though, it was wrong) and that they didn’t actually invade Costa Rica, but the Costa Ricans aren’t buying it. And no one seems to be explaining why the Nicaraguans have stuck round the area… The whole thing sounds like some important details are being left out, but it would be quite an unfortunate story if it turns out that a Google Maps error leads to war.

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Google Maps Error Dispute Continues To Escalate Between Nicaragua And Costa Rica”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Aaron Ortiz (profile) says:

Google has very little to do with this

The truth is that the whole conflict is a smokescreen to lift up nationalism and distract the Nicaraguan voters while Ortega goes for an unconstitutional third term as president.

Google maps has nothing to do with it really. Ortega just wants the OAS and UN to concentrate on the wrong thing: the border, and ignore his autocratic move.

david_sp (profile) says:

But was it really an error.

I am aware that cartographers will put small errors in their maps as a way to protect their copyright. Otherwise they would not be able to prove that someone violated their copyright. The errors consist of minor movements of borders, street numbers, or names slightly misspelled. Usually when you run across them they are of little or no inconvenience, not war-starting!
But this does beg the question, why was an army using an internet map service anyway? Shouldn’t they be relying on something that is based on their own government?s documentation? Maybe someone was looking for a fight.

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: But was it really an error.

“I am aware that cartographers will put small errors in their maps as a way to protect their copyright. “

Yeah, I never understood this.

I get that the idea is that these intentional ‘errors’ are designed to be read as ‘creativity’ and thus gain copyright, but has this been upheld in the courts? Why would intentional errors in a collection of data be any more copyrightable than regular errors?

Ed says:

Re: Re: But was it really an error.

The whole idea is to prove someone copied you. If you have an accidental error and someone else made the same error, it shows most probably they copied you. What are the chance they made the same mistake? The intentional “error” just makes it easier for the original map maker to check other maps for the intentional “error”.

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: But was it really an error.

Yeah, but the whole point is that the datasets aren’t copyrightable. So why does an error, even intentional, suddenly make it so. That seems duplicitous rather than creative.

And shouldn’t there be a disclaimer on such sets saying “There are X number of errors in this?”

Fentex says:

And no one seems to be explaining why the Nicaraguans have stuck round the area.

Some political sites are discussing the theory, apparently known from other circles, that Nicuragua with financial support from other states has intentions of building a competing crossing of the central-American isthmus to the Panama canal.

The river marking the border with Costa Rica would be part of the new crossing and therefore knowledge of it’s geography and control of access to it becomes important.

Apparently international treaty puts the entire river in Nicuraguan hands with Costa Ricas border beginning on their side of it with gaurantees of Costa Rican access for transport rather than as one might otherwise expect the border running down the rivers center.

Nicuraga is reportedly dredging to improve navigation of the river (whihc would happen reagrdless of plans for a canal) and the soldiers which crossed the line were doing such work as well as surveying.

It may have just been people getting on with work disregarding the niceities of soveriegnty. Though some observers suspect the new canal plan creates pressure for asserting direct contrl over both banks of the river.

Avatar28 (profile) says:

Somehow, it kind of reminds me of this from Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.
It is of course well known that careless talk costs lives, but the full scale of the problem is not always appreciated.
For instance, a human (see Earth) named Arthur Dent who, because of a Vogon Constructor Fleet, was one of the last two humans in the Universe at the time, once said “I seem to be having trmendous difficulty with my lifestyle.” At the very moment that Arthur said this, a freak wormhole opened up in the fabric of the space-time continuum and carried his words far far back in time across almost infinite reaches of space to a distant Galaxy where strange and warlike beings were poised on the brink of frightful interstellar battle.

The two opposing leaders were meeting for the last time.

A dreadful silence fell across the conference table as the commander of the Vl’Hurgs, resplendent in his black jewelled battle shorts, gazed levelly at the the G’Gugvuntt leader squatting opposite him in a cloud of green sweet-smelling steam, and, with a million sleek and horribly beweaponed star cruisers poised to unleash electric death at his single word of command, challenged the vile creature to take back what it had said about his mother.

The creature stirred in his sickly broiling vapour, and at that very moment the words I seem to be having tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle drifted across the conference table.

Unfortunately, in the Vl’Hurg tongue this was the most dreadful insult imaginable, and there was nothing for it but to wage terrible war for centuries.

Eventually of course, after their Galaxy had been decimated over a few thousand years, it was realized that the whole thing had been a ghastly mistake, and so the two opposing battle fleets settled their few remaining differences in order to launch a joint attack on our own Galaxy – now positively identified as the source of the offending remark.

For thousands more years the mighty ships tore across the empty wastes of space and finally dived screaming on to the first planet they came across – which happened to be the Earth – where due to a terrible miscalculation of scale the entire battle fleet was accidentally swallowed by a small dog.

bugmenot (profile) says:

This whole incident has very little to do with Google’s map. And, while on a recent visit to CR, I heard several comments disparaging Nicaraguans. The two countries have different economic positions, which produces a constant clash.

CR has loads of tourism income (and they’re milking it for every dime they can demand!), Nicaragua appears to have much less, and consequently, more to gain in coming up with a new scheme.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Google map dispute with Nicaragua and Costa Rica

Last Clear Chance Doctrine – Nicaragua had a chance to withdraw, and didn’t. Under the Doctrine (yes, I know it is not international law, but something like it applies virtually everywhere) Google is absolved (though people will continue to ignore the law, or even basic fairness, if it is inconvenient).
I recently found some money, and went to a bit of trouble to return it to the rightful owner. Several people have indicated they lost respect for me for not keeping it!

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...