Some countries including Indonesia have passed legislation regulating geospatial data. The intention appears to be to ensure a certain level of quality in geospatial data provided by private data providers to the public. For example, in Indonesa, the law provides that "if inaccuracies in supplied geospatial information result in damages to users, the provider will be subject to imprisonment of up to 3 years, or a fine of up to IDR 750 million [$75 000]."
Now the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India has introduced a bill "The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016” that is intended to regulate just about everything to do with geospatial information not only in India but outside India. One of the motivations for the bill I suspect relates to the depiction of disputed borders with Pakistan and other countries. Specifically the bill would make illegal
- Possession of geospatial data without the permission of the Security Vetting Authority
- Disseminating, publishing or distributing or visualising any geospatial information of India through internet platforms or online services, or publishing or distributing of any geospatial information of India in any electronic or physical form without the general or special permission of the Security Vetting Authority.
- Disseminating, publishing or distributing any geospatial information of India, outside India, without the general or special permission of the Security Vetting Authority
- Depicting, disseminating, publishing or distributing of any wrong or false topographic information of India including international boundaries through internet platforms or online services or in any electronic or physical form
The penalties provided for infractions are severe for individuals, though maybe not for Google or Apple,
- Illegal acquisition of geospatial information of India - Fine ranging from Rs. 1 crore [$150,000] to Rs. 100 crore [$15,000,000] and/or imprisonment for a period up to seven years.
- Illegal dissemination, publication or distribution of geospatial information of India - Whoever disseminates, publishes or distributesany geospatial information of India in contravention of section 4, shall be punished with a fine ranging from Rs. 10 lakhs [$15,000] to Rs. 100 crore [$15,000,000] and/or imprisonment for a period up to seven years.
- Use of geospatial information of India outside India - Fine ranging from Rs. 1 crore [$150,000] to Rs. 100 crore [$15,000,000] and/or imprisonment for a period up to seven years.
A detailed critique of the bill has been provided by Arup Dasgupta who concludes that "This Act needs to be dropped. In its attempt to cover all bases it has been made so broadband and all encompassing that it may actually impede the progress of work on Geospatial systems and therefore on key Government programmes and projects. The Act does not take into account the fact that with the advent of the Cloud, Data as a Service, Software as a Service and Platform as a Service there is no need for ‘persons’ to possess data. They can just access data, do their work and retain only the final results. This Act does not, in fact cannot, even begin to comprehend the paradigm shift in geospatial technologies which makes it a non-starter.
"India does need a Geospatial Information Act, but it has to be an enabling and encouraging Act that makes for faster and better implementation of programmes, not a regressive and punitive Act as the proposed one."
There has been widespread criticism of the bill. For example, "Experts are slamming The bill saying, one, it may be highly impractical for each smartphone user to get a licence. Two, It will see all business dependent on real-time navigation as illegal. Three, larger companies have money to go through security vetting, but upstarts may not have it so easy. Four, the bill goes against some of the ongoing projects like smartcities, which plan to harness geospatial information for smooth functioning."
Sanjay Kumar, CEO of Geospatial Media and Comms, is more direct, "Yes, regulation to the extent of the correct depiction of international and national administrative boundaries are concerned, we must exercise our rights far as security sensitive information is concerned to regulate, but in the name of security we shouldn’t try to regulate what is freely and easily available in world markets and just keep our own people away from it, as if we have more security threat from internal people than external ones. Also there is no sense in licensing value addition as it's a clear infringement of IPR [intellectual property rights] and business ethics.