back to article Coca Cola in the dock over illegal China GPS map claims

The perils of doing business in China were highlighted again recently after it was revealed that Coca Cola is under investigation following allegations it illegally mapped parts of Yunnan province. The FT translated a notice on a local government web site in the region apparently accusing the fizzy drinks giant of "illegally …


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  1. foo_bar_baz

    In the interest of our national security

    You'll have to hand over your technology for inspection by our experts from Red Flag Cola Co.

    Thank you for doing business in the People's Republic.

    1. JohnG Silver badge

      Re: In the interest of our national security

      The funny thing is, many of these GPS vehicle tracking systems are manufactured in China.

    2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

      Re: In the interest of our national security

      Countries that have these kinds of mapping regulations do so targeting domestic political opposition groups, or as a way to shake down businesses for money. They know perfectly well that any country that might have military interest in their country has access to commercial or military map/spy satellite data and hence has the country mapped down to the meter level.

  2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    "all commercial map service providers to locate their data centres inside the country."

    Chinese govt IT staff smarter than UK Govt, with their "Do it in the cloud" mantra?

    Sounds like a notion to me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "all commercial map service providers to locate their data centres inside the country."

      "Do it in the crowd" ;-)

  3. Silverburn

    So...they used a GPS database to map where their customers (retail shops mainly - I suspect the military base has a canteen onsite) are, so they could plan more efficient delivery routes?

    They already have their customers addresses, invoices, contacts etc on file...what's wrong with tagging GPS onto that data too?

    I'm not seeing what the problem is?

    1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

      There were reports during the Vietnam business that some squads were refusing to go out on duty as the Coke (drinks that is) hadn't arrived.

      Also used to work with an ex-squaddie who said that Us troops were thin on the ground in Iraq until the whole franschise city was a set up - Coke, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut etc.etc..

      China seem to be aware that for once the vultures* come before an attack.

      *need a better animal as Vultures in the wild stop many diseases spreading and the Reg is also highly useful

      1. Sureo

        Yes a warm bottle of coke carried on a long trek in the jungle ... deadlier than a land mine (apologies to Tom Paxton)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm not seeing what the problem is?

      I think the problem that the Chinese see is that they are gathering the GPS data for there customers locations by using GPS devices that record the routes their delivery drivers use and the records of these devices will contain a record of the roads and if sufficient of these are aggregated (e.g. "in the cloud" - like openmaps) then you can generate a map which is not controlled by the government.

      N.b. its not just China that is a bit touchy about maps. I'm sure when we had a holiday in Crete ~20 years ago reading in a guidebook that getting a decent map for walking was difficult because the one available was years out of date and the Greek government didn't really allow anyone to make new maps.

      1. Japhy Ryder

        I think it is also illegal for any Greek map producers to employ cartographers, or indeed anyone who has any idea what a map may be useful for.

    3. Tom 13

      Re: I'm not seeing what the problem is?

      Granted the maps probably aren't any more accurate than the ones Western militaries probably already have, but they might provide useful confirmation. Think of it as being similar to taking a camera on a military base. We can probably get high quality pictures from space, but confirmation from a guy on the ground improves your confidence in the data. In short, I could see Western militaries having similar concerns if it was a Chinese company delivering beverages to one of their bases.

      1. MacGyver

        Re: I'm not seeing what the problem is?

        Not really the same thing, a camera takes pictures of people at locations at a certain time, GPS coordinates are for buildings and landmarks, and is not time sensitive, and is only accurate to a few meters anyway. Also note that any "tourist" could take a decrypted GPS receiver put it in their bag, and walk all over China, and provide "inch accurate" maps. How would they stop someone taking accurate GPS readings from known geographic locations around the bases and using those along side of the aerial photographs to create inch accurate maps. They can't. So why all the drama other than stupidity, or anti-competitive practices?

        It sounds like some 70 year old bureaucrats are still stuck in the 1960's and logistics engineers are paying the price for their ignorance and fear.

      2. the spectacularly refined chap

        Re: I'm not seeing what the problem is?

        It isn't just non-western governments either that get sniffy about maps over seemingly innocuous things. The then Post Office Tower (then Telecom Tower then BT Tower) in central London was completed in 1964 and pretty difficult to miss. However, its existence was still an official secret until 1993 and it was omitted from OS maps as a consequence.

    4. F111F


      It's about EEFIs, Essential Elements of Friendly Information, where someone can post seemingly innocuous info and others can combine it with other information to build a picture of not just locations, but activity. Western intel agencies know where Chinese military bases are, but a route of soft-drink deliveries tells them which buildings are occupied and with an approximate number of personnel, based on size/frequency of deliveries.

  4. drguyrope

    Clearly nothing to do with security...

    This must be about bribes / contracts with "the wrong people" as the Chinese military know all their sites are visible from state-of-the-art satellites from US, Russia and the EU (plus other emerging powers). Mapping data is not the issue.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: Clearly nothing to do with security...

      I wouldn't say clearly, but that's certainly another possibility.

  5. Scott Pedigo

    "The government is certainly signalling a harder line on mapping regulations, with proposals released in September last year including a requirement for all commercial map service providers to locate their data centres inside the country.

    The aim is that tighter regulation will boost national security by reducing the likelihood of sensitive geographical information ending up in the wrong hands. China is also planning to increase fines for providers which fail to include its “full territory” when compiling maps, as sometimes happens when cartographers decide disputed lands such as the Diaoyu Islands don't belong in Chinese territory."

    So the obvious solution is to put your data center on the Diaoyu Islands, or on a boat anchored next to them.

  6. Peter Simpson 1
    Thumb Up

    Obvious answer

    Coke: "OK, we're sorry. To preven this kind of error in the future, we will henceforth be making no Coke deliveries to government facilities of any kind."

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is paranoia developed by decades of in-bred militaristic single party Communist rule. Boycott anything Chinese if you want freedom for the Chinese people.

    Free Tibet.

  8. no-one in particular

    Meter accurate...

    ... so China's gas and electric can be targeted one household at a time.

  9. Justice


    Riiiiiiiight. Because their delivery drivers need more efficient routes to deliver cans of Coke.

    Not mapping military installations at all. No sir, not us.

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. tempemeaty


    Now that China has all American trained engineers in their own schools teaching American level Engineering, state of the art factories being built by the thousands, making everything themselves and need nothing more from westerners they are beginning to say "All your base are belong to us" to all the big Western Corporations.

  12. starbaby


    Since the early days, the chinese government has been paranoid about anyone collecting coordinates on government and especially military installations for fear of nuclear ICBM attacks by foreign devils. Remember also, there are no civilian or private airports, all are run by the air-force no matter how back-water. The fact that technology has progressed to where every car and every cell phone tracks position and mapping is as easy as hitting "remember my location" on a GUI hasn't percolated up through the consciousness of the lawmakers. It may be a deliberate attempt to put pressure on multi-nationals but it's more likely a bureaucratic pissing contest.

  13. Gerryb

    Camera GPS Woes in China

    I took my Panasonic TZ30 Lumix (made in Japan) to China. I read that in the Lumix literature GPS would not work there: I assumed that there would be no locations, names provided. What I was not expecting that Lumix software turned off all GPS data such that no picture had any co-ordinates. Meanwhile my Huawie Ascend phone (Made in China) continued to give co-ordinates on pictures...

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