China Mappers Censorship of Sensitive Stuff on the Map

Posted by Supaplex on 5 November 2017 in English (English)

Due to China strict law of map concerns of China, stuff including military area on OpenStreetMap is not welcomed by China mapping law. Some China Mappers are thinking about removing sensitive military area on OpenStreetMap. One of the mapper FreedSky is censoring map stuff on OpenStreetMap, and start removing military landuse on OpenStreetMap

I revert the changeset 53508675 and changeset 53508564. It’s the military area on Fujian, which is the standing opposite Taiwan.

In the previous experience deal with national security, military landuse in Israel and South Korean was removed by local mappers. But the the removed stuff was recovery when someone discovered and talk on the mailing list.

Which is important, the national security of certain country, or the global goal of mapping everything on the world?

Location: Dongguan, Yongchun County, Quanzhou, Fujian, PRC

Comment from Zverik on 5 November 2017 at 17:46

Thanks for noticing this and taking action!

Comment from SafwatHalaby on 5 November 2017 at 18:37

For the record, We (Israel) are mapping military bases that are public knowledge. But it seems some mappers prefer not mapping the inner details. Old extensive discussion here:

Comment from black_bike on 5 November 2017 at 21:10

OSM-Data is helpful in doing censorship.

In 2012 Bing (Microsoft) got a phone call from “high officials” asking them to blur areas from the military in their satelite images for Germany. Of course there was no official data about military locations availlable.

OpenStreetMap came to the rescue. Take all areas from OpenStreetMap with tagging landuse=military in Germany. This was the source that Bing use to blur their images and to hide important military information from potential enemies. We all were in big danger and the thoughtful reaction of Bing and OSM-Data saved us. ;-)

This incident is described (mostly German) on the OSM-Wiki-Pages under

At the same time many websites of military and official organizations in Germany didn’t follow the same strict rules. They showed high resolution photos of many military areas.

It resulted in a “Streisand-Effect”. Motivated by this, two weeks later the whole area of the German Ministery of Defence, Bonn Hardthöhe was perfectly mapped in deep detail in OpenStreetMap. Look at:

Harald black_bike

Comment from Alan Trick on 9 November 2017 at 05:30

I think the rule of thumb is that anything that is public (and relatively static) can be mapped. Secret things should not be mapped and private things should only be mapped if people with access to them choose to do so. The reason for this is quite practical, private and secret things aren’t verifiable and things on the map need to be.

That said, I think the existence of the military landuse in question is public knowledge and so it totally can and should be mapped.

Comment from FreedSky on 3 December 2017 at 04:40


Comment from Supaplex on 12 February 2018 at 09:57

Translate FreedSky comment:

It is not my purpose to effect the national security of my country. And I hope the above question won’t effect the development of OMS in China.

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