Google applies for map license in China as deadline looms

Google has applied for a license needed to continue operating its online maps in China as the deadline for obtaining government approval approaches.

China's State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping said Tuesday that Google had applied for the license through a joint venture company. The application is under review.

Chinese authorities introduced new rules last year, stating that all companies providing online maps must obtain a license. Companies that do not meet the July 1 deadline will face prosecution by the Chinese government.

Google offered no new comment, only citing its previous response: "We're in discussions with the government about how we could offers a maps product in China."

The search giant is applying for the license although it has already faced difficulties with Chinese government regulations. Last year, Google's China operations faced a possible shutdown after the company announced it would no longer abide by the country's censorship laws and filter out certain search queries in China. The government, however, decided to renew a critical content provider license for Google.

But while Google continues to operate in the country, some of its products are blocked, including YouTube and Blogger. China regularly blocks websites containing politically sensitive content. Gmail has also been slow to access at times, the result of Chinese government interference, according to Google.

The company currently has a 19.2% share of the search engine market in China, according to Beijing-based research firm Analysys International. Domestic company Baidu is ranked first with a 75.8% share.

China is instituting the new regulations to prevent security leaks of sensitive locations and to ensure all online maps are accurate for users. Companies that wish to qualify, however, must store all their mapping data in servers located in the country.

China's State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping also revealed a change to the mapping regulations earlier this month. Authorities now state foreign companies can only apply for a mapping license through joint ventures with local Chinese companies.

In Google's case, the company that applied for the license, Guxiang Information Technology Co., is a joint venture between the search giant and a local Chinese partner.

Microsoft and Nokia have also applied for online mapping licenses through joint ventures with Chinese companies. Nokia has already received its license, while Microsoft continues to wait for approval.

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