The Business of Mapping – Is it fair for all?

In my last blog, I discussed how important it is for society to take in to their own hands, describing ones location and how to get there. If it is not, the journey of getting from one place to the next is blurred with commercial and political interests. One of the leading powers in maps is Google. They are working specifically using Cyber Cartography, which is online mapmaking. Not many people will turn to hardcopy maps nowadays to find their way, as it is all accessible via the Internet.

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Google Maps is another ‘arm’ of the huge American Corporation that is Google. Google maps, whilst it is a free service, could be looked at as immoral as it is serving to “increase Google’s corporate and political power” (T, Strom. 2011). For example, you can list your organisation on Google maps, so that users can search your business and a symbol will appear on the point of a map. This general service is free, however, what I found in the large quantities of text on the ‘Google developers’ page is that once your organisation is loaded on maps more than 25 000 times per day for 90 consecutive days, you begin to get charged US$0.50 per 1000 excess map loads (Google developers, 2015).

Furthermore, this service of creating a ‘Google place’ can be upgraded. “Advertisers can upgrade from the generic symbol to their company brand” (T, Strom. 2011). They can also ‘keep their symbol showing for a further zoom out than other companies’ (T, Strom. 2011), so that they stand out over others. These two examples is evidence, of how Google turns map listings in to a money making machine.

With the Internet creating a faster, cheaper and easier way to look at maps, is it fair to then charge more for a way to stand out on these maps? Moreover, is it fair to also charge an organisation when their map point is downloaded due to popularity? These two facts are highlighting the commercial interests of a company like Google. Many may see it as a smart way to run business. Companies who can afford visibility, should be charged for excess downloads as they can afford it, right? As part of a consumerist society, we should be impressed by Google’s innovative ideas; they align with the capitalist globalized society we live in. How much is too much? When will it ever be fair for all parties involved? Personally, as a commerce student, I see Google on the more innovative business side than the ethical side of things. It isn’t unethical what they are doing, it is simply business. However, I do see how some people may consider payment for an identity on a map as unjust.

BCM232: Blog 2: The Ethics of Google maps


Strom, T 2011, Space, cyberspace & interface: The trouble with Google maps, vol. 14, no.3, retrieved from,

Wroclawski. (14/1/14). ‘Why the world needs open street map’. Retrieved from,

Google 2015. Google maps API facts – Google Developers, retrieved from,

Google maps picture


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