Let's just say that cartography has gotten more interesting in today's world of advanced technology.

Google made headlines this week when they supposedly unblurred satellite images of Russian military sites. While Google later denied making any changes, the news also reminded me of how Google disabled live traffic data in Ukraine after the Russian invasion earlier this year. And it made me question how disputed regions like Crimea or Ladakh or Palestine are represented on Google Maps.

Turns out, Google has a full-time "geospatial technologist" role to work on exactly this. This chief geographer is responsible for determining how to represent the world on a map, and that includes handling controversial borders. In the case of Crimea, the territory is marked as Russian for those located in Russia, as Ukrainian for those located in Ukraine, and as a gray disputed region for those located anywhere else. To think, all this time I'd assumed that we were looking at the same map no matter where in the world we lived!

Part of the reason maps are represented this way is because of legal obligations to countries where Google does business or has employees. For example, if Ladakh isn't represented according to Indian government expectations, Google staff in India is put at risk.

Security is another growing concern. A few years ago, Strava had to quickly change their privacy settings after it was discovered that their heatmaps revealed the exercise routines of military bases around the world.

Of course, cartography isn't the only area in which technology and politics have clashed. Increasing privacy concerns have led to the enactment of regulations like GDPR, and environmental concerns have led to proposals that mandate USB-C ports on all devices, including iPhones with their proprietary Lightning connectors.

I keep wondering – who makes the final decision?