Paradoxes of Internet Regulation–Korea Edition
Google’s maps of Seoul are peculiar, they offer public transit directions but not driving directions. Turns out that this is due to Korean law (the Measurement Act) which prohibits the export of Korean map data without obtaining government approval. (The distinction appears to be that driving directions are “new” maps and thus unapproved while transit directions are fixed and can be approved in advance of generation.)
Local versions of Google satellite imagery are also much lower resolution in South Korea due to military restrictions. Google has argued that by satisfying the law within a country it satistifes that country’s law, a policy rule on Google’s part that I applaud, but this policy does lead to the paradox that the images of South Korea available in South Korea are not as high resolution as those available in North Korea!
More generally, however, the bigger Google gets the more countries it has a physical presence in (servers, sales staff and support etc.) and thus the more leverage individual countries, especially large countries, will have to degrade the services that Google offers not just within-country but to the world.