National borders may not seem important to the average Google Maps user that’s looking for a hotel or a place to eat. But when you’re mapping the world’s boundaries — as Google and other map providers are — getting them right or wrong can have international implications.
With that in mind, Google has announced “significant improvements to our borders for over 60 countries and regions” in both Google Maps and Google Earth.
One of the improvements is in accuracy as reflected and determined by the earth’s surface. With higher resolution boundary data, Google can now better follow natural boundaries along mountains and lakes.
But there’s also a geo-political element involved in all this. Boundaries the world over are sometimes in dispute, and they change based on wars, treaties, and the like. (Earlier this year, the Cambodian government accused Google of being “radically misleading,” “professionally irresponsible,” and “devoid of truth and reality” in how Google Earth shows the boundary between it and Thailand.) Google’s announcement includes the before and after shots (above) of a disputed island near the borders of Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina; it’s much more clearly marked now as being in dispute with dotted lines.
Google says the improvements are already live in Maps and will be available in Google Earth soon. Whether or not the nations of the world approve remains to be seen.