China Says It’s Reviewing Google, Microsoft Map Applications

China said it’s reviewing Google Inc. (GOOG) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)’s license applications to offer online mapping services in the world’s largest Internet market.

The companies’ Chinese ventures, which submitted their applications by the July 1 deadline, will be permitted to continue their services while the review is under way, China’s State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping said today in an e-mail interview. The bureau didn’t say when it will make a decision.

Google, which withdrew its search engine in March 2010 to avoid complying with China’s Internet censorship rules, competes for online map services in the country with local rivals including Baidu Inc. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. (700) China has said it will punish online map providers from this month that don’t comply with May 2010 rules that prohibit operators from publishing geographical data deemed sensitive by the government.

Mountain View, California-based Google, which has said since March 31 that it’s discussing the matter with the Chinese government, has no update on its online mapping service in China, spokeswoman Jessica Powell said in an e-mail today. Microsoft’s application is in process, Viola Wang, a spokeswoman at the company’s MSN venture in China, said in an e-mail. She said the company couldn’t provide guidance on how long the application will be reviewed.

Some online map providers have published sensitive information about China’s geography, posing dangers to national security, Song Chaozhi, deputy director-general at the surveying bureau, said in May 2010. Rules on online maps issued that month helped address the risks, Song said.

Mapping Violations

Since 2008, online mapping services have committed more than 1,000 violations including disclosure of confidential information and mistakes in drawing the country’s borders, the official Xinhua News agency had reported.

The licensing system aims to prohibit services that have an “inadequate awareness of national security,” Xinhua said.

Baidu, Tencent, Sina Corp., Sohu.com Inc. (SOHU), and a Nokia Oyj (NOK1V) venture in China were among the first recipients of online map licenses in the country, the surveying bureau said last year.

In March, Google said the Chinese government is disrupting its Gmail e-mail service and disguising the blockage as technical issues on Google’s part. China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu called that claim “unacceptable.”

Google has been losing share in China’s search-engine market since January 2010, when the U.S. company said it was no longer willing to comply with Chinese regulations to self-censor Web content. Two months later, the U.S. company shut its Google.cn service and redirected Chinese users to a site in Hong Kong.

Google, owner of the world’s most popular search engine, accounted for 19.2 percent of China’s search market by revenue in the first-quarter, declining from 19.6 percent three months earlier, according to research company Analysys International. Baidu’s market share rose to 75.8 percent from 75.5 percent, according to Analysys.

To contact the reporters on this story: Edmond Lococo in Beijing at elococo@bloomberg.net; Mark Lee in Hong Kong at wlee37@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at ycho2@bloomberg.net

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.