March 19, 2019

Google alters Rio map after complaints from Brazil government

Favelas, favelas, I look at Rio and all I see are favelas.

Google has agreed to amend its Google map of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, after after city officials said it gave too much prominence to favelas, which is the local word for shanty towns or slums.

Antonio Pedro Figueira de Mello, the Special Secretary of Tourism, for Rio de Janeiro, calls the maps “absurd” and says that Google had turned down a request in 2009 that they be changed.

Rio is a city of contrasts, and favelas, are a big part of the city of 6.3 million people.

However local newspaper Globo says that Googles labelling of their map of Rio ignores some tourist sites and wealthier districts, giving equal billing to favelas. They say it gives a bad impression of the city.

The main problem is when the map is viewed in large scale format. Most of the favelas are highlighted but areas such as the suburb of Cosme Velho – where tourists take the cable car up to the famous statue of Christ – is not labelled, but the smaller Favela da Villa Imaculate Conceicao is.

Sugar Loaf mountain is also not marked. In Humaita, the favela area is labelled in the same size text as the entire district.

Globo says that Google has told them it will now change the way the information was displayed.

Felix Ximenes, a spokesperson for Google told Globo that Google had never intended to “defame Rio”, and that the person who drew up the maps was a native of the city.

“The problem is a lack of discretion in the way the information has been posted on the map.” He said that “Google had bought the data but then used it without prioritising it”.

Mr Ximenes said the maps would gradually be amended to change the text sizes and to apply labels to districts. The favelas would still be marked, but only once the user had zoomed in.

Well done Google it is nice to have a story with a happy ending. Fancy giving equal prominence to the poor people – very disturbing.