Belgian Ministry Of Defense To Sue Google Over Maps

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In short: A spokesperson for the Belgian Ministry of Defense has said the agency will sue Google over the company's failure to conceal military sites and the location of key infrastructure such as nuclear power plants in its mapping services, Reuters reports. No further details about the incident have been outlined but Google's response seems to indicate that this the culmination of an ongoing dispute. In fact, the company claims that it has already been working with the government for the past two years at least and that it has been removing sites from its maps when requested and wherever it can legally comply.

Background: While details on the ground are still relatively slim, this is not the first time a mapping-related company has found itself in hot water over the recording of data pertaining to military affairs. Fitness app developer Strava was caught up earlier this year after it was discovered that its records of wearable users' movement gave away military installations and compromised patrol routes. Google itself has been embroiled in controversy more recently as well regarding the wording of its explanation for location data collections and more broadly, its handling of user location data. Although not at all related to military personnel, bases, or other secured locations, the company was effectively called out for not clearly explaining its practices. What's more, it had been claimed that there really isn't any easy way for users to avoid having that data collected. Google has since corrected those issues for the most part. Setting that aside, Google has historically managed to avoid most legal repercussions relating to these matters with the exception of some more minor incidents. Primarily, those have centered around the public sharing of roads existing on private property, which it was ultimately required to remove from Google Street View.

Impact: It isn't immediately clear what the suit will entail if the defense ministry decides to pursue legal recourse or what Google's consequences might be if it loses the case. Instead, authorities only indicate that the removal of the locales in question, presumably from Google Maps, Street View, Google Earth, and related databases, is a matter of national security. Similarly, Google has not stated whether it plans to comply with any unspecified requests in order to prevent further conflict, stating only that the decision to proceed in this direction is "unfortunate."

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