Google Maps Could Be Banned in China As Deadline Nears

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Google’s volatile relationship with the Chinese government doesn’t seem to be ironing out yet, in fact, it could get worse, as a new deadline from the Chinese State Bureau of Surveying looms that could see Google Maps blocked in the country.

The Chinese government requires Internet mapping websites that operate in China to receive a license to operate in the country through an approval process that is designed to protect national security, including by censoring data, among other practices.

Websites that are not approved to operate are entirely blocked in the country, and could only be accessible through gateways like proxies.

The bureau’s spokesperson, Kou Jingwei, today publically confirmed it had yet to receive an application from Google as the March 31 deadline nears. Google declined to comment specifically on whether an application was in fact sent or not. Google generically said the company was in the process of evaluating the impact of any restrictions and regulations.

Most recently, Google accused the Chinese government of interfering with its popular email service, Google Gmail, in a sophisticated attack that hindered various functions, including the ability to send messages.

Google claims the interference was designed to make it appear to users as if Google was experiencing technical difficulties with its systems, but Google later confirmed there were no technical issues from its side, blaming the Chinese government.

The Chinese government widely monitors and censors information on the Internet that even marginally presents a threat to the government and efforts have increased in the wake of recent pro-democracy protests throughout the Middle East.

In another apparent attack on its computer systems, the world’s largest search engine, Google Inc., is publically pointing the finger at the Chinese government for allegedly manipulating how some of its services function in China.

It appears many basic functions and tasks within Google’s Gmail email service, including sending messages, using the instant messaging service Gtalk within Gmail, starring or marking messages as read, all appear to be sporadically hindered for users in China.

Google said there are no technical issues from its side that would cause any technical impediment to any of its services in China, and the company explicitly claimed it is government obstruction that has been carefully designed to appear like technical issues in Google’s systems while interfering with key features.

It is widely believed the Chinese government has blocked some of Gmail features as it is looking to control a new Internet democracy-seeking movement that is inspired by the 2011 Tunisian Revolution.

Chinese President Hu Jintao already called for additional measures to be taken to monitor Internet communications in China to wedge any potential social mutiny and instability in light of recent uprisings throughout the Middle East.

Various websites are blocked in China, including Google’s YouTube website, which is the largest social video sharing website in the world with more than 100-million monthly users.

The Chinese government sensors any web content that it even marginally perceives to be a threat to the government.

Google has been operating in China since 2005. Following an alleged Chinese sponsored attack on Google’s systems in January 2010, that event prompted Google to threaten to close operations in the country and to stop censoring search results in China.

Both sides were not available for additional comment.

This is not the first time that Google Gmail service has been obstructed as a direct result of political motivations. The Iranian Communications Agency in February 2010 completely blocked Gmail service in Iran amid anticipation of political protests.

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