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Google Maps fights over hosting Korean geographical data

Tue 2 Aug 2016

Korea East Sea

Following its recent request to Korea’s National Geographic Information Institute (NGII), Google is continuing its fight over hosting the country’s map data outside of Korea.

In June the U.S.-based search giant had officially made a request to Korea’s NGII, which proposed exporting the country’s 1:5,000 scale maps data outside of its national borders. Google currently leases its Korean map data from SK Telecom’s T-Map – the country’s largest navigation service.

Google’s submission (its second in six years) has been met with strong criticism from government groups and activists alike.

The Green Consumer Network issued a statement which suggested Google could ‘put an end to the issue by establishing a data centre’ in the country. The group’s spokesperson added that by not setting up a local data facility, Google is knowingly not complying with Korea’s legal requirements for data hosting.

The Green Consumer Network admitted that the existing Korean tax system is extremely ambiguous for multinational firms. ‘Under the current legal system, it is hard for the nation’s tax regulator to measure how much they can make in profits… But Google will not be mired in any tax-related disputes here once it establishes a data centre.’

Google Korea argued in response that establishing a data centre in Korea would not resolve its disputes in the country. Google Korea software engineer Kwon Beom-joon outlined that even with a local data centre, the company would still struggle to operate effectively because of strict licensing regulation.

‘Even if Google establishes a data centre (in Korea), we still need legal licenses to provide access to the nation’s map data for our map service users worldwide,’ opined Beom-joon. ‘We take various factors into account before establishing a data centre.’

The engineer also dispelled the arguments that Google was evading tax responsibilities by not building a data centre in the country – ‘Google is complying with tax regulations not just in Korea, but in all countries that it operates in.’

Google has been adamant that it will not access any sensitive or controversial information about the nation in its maps data export.

A meeting, expected to take place over the next week, will see the Korean Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, the Ministry of National Defence, and other governmental bodies discuss whether or not to allow Google to export Korea’s geographical data. A final decision will be reached no later than the end of the month.


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