Google Irks Brazilians With Map of Rio de Janeiro Highlighting Favelas

April 26, 2011 7:30 am 0 comments

 

A view of a favela in Rio de Janeiro. Photo by semtext.

Google has come under fire in Brazil for prominently featuring the names of favelas on the Internet giant’s online map service, Google Maps.  An editorial by O Globo called Google’s labeling of neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro an example of “distorted geography” and faulted the company for privileging the names of certain favelas over some nearby middle and upper middle-class neighborhoods.

An online view of Rio’s South Zone, often promoted as the  heart of Rio and home to famous landmarks like Copacabana and Ipanema, accurately shows that the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods exist side-by-side with favelas that are home to Rio’s poorest residents. But the fact that touristic neighborhoods like Cosme Velho do not appear on the map without using the “zoom” function  has made some residents angry — especially in light of the fact that neighboring Vila Imaculada Conceição, a favela, is clearly labeled.

Some Cariocas are concerned that foreigners will have a misconception about their city based on the maps. Laura Antunes, who authored the O Globo editiorial, writes, “Those unfamiliar with Rio who want to discover more about the city using these maps will have the false impression that the urban area is nothing more than an agglomeration of favelas.” She referred to a map available on the Rio de Janeiro municipal government website put out by the IPP (Instituto Pereira Passos) as a more accurate version of the city, breaking Rio down into both neighborhoods and administrative districts that include favelas.

Valéria Sampaio, a resident of Humaitá, said the maps would cause visitors to Rio to “take fright”. She added, “At the very least, the names of the favelas could appear in a smaller size so the user could perceive the difference in importance.”

But importance is subjective. Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro’s largest favela, is also not visible on Google Maps at certain resolutions. In 2001, residents of Rio’s favelas sought to address a lack of knowledge about their communities by creating “Viva Favela”, an online forum for community journalism dedicated to reporting on daily life in the city’s favelas and teaching residents new media skills. The website partnered with Google Maps to create an interactive map allowing users to access content coming directly from the city’s favelas.

The latest controversy over Rio’s neighborhoods is not the first time Google Maps has drawn heat from a Latin American nation.

In November of 2010, Nicaraguan troops crossed the border into Costa Rica, took down the neighboring country’s flag, and hoisted their own, drawing outrage from Costa Ricans including President Laura Chinchilla. The troops’ commander later blamed the blunder on an inaccurate reading from Google Maps, which had incorrectly listed the territory as Nicaraguan. Google later took responsibility for the error, acknowledging that its depiction of the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border was off by 2.7 kilometers.

Also in 2010, Google Street View generated criticism just a week after its Brazilian debut, when dead bodies and criminal activity were visible to those viewing the streets of Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte online. Brazil was the first country in South America to receive Google Street View service, which allows users to zoom in on aerial photographs of select geographic locations.

Regarding the controversial labeling of Rio neighborhoods and favelas, a spokesman for Google said that the company is working “to treat this information in a more efficient way”.

Photo: semtext @ Flickr.

Leave a Reply


Other News

  • Mexico North America Today in Latin America Fugitive Police Official Captured Over Mexican Students’ Disappearance

    Fugitive Police Official Captured Over Mexican Students’ Disappearance

    Top Story — The former deputy police chief of Cocula, Guerrero, has been arrested in connection with the disappearance of 43 students from nearby Iguala, the Mexican Attorney General’s Office announced on Friday. César Nava González had been on the run since Sept. 26 — the night of the students’ disappearance — and was apprehended on Nov. 16. According to the attorney general’s office, Nava González went into hiding in Mexico City, and then in the city of Colima. He […]

    Read more →
  • North America Today in Latin America United States Sidestepping Congress, Obama Unveils Plan To Protect 5 Million From Deportation

    Sidestepping Congress, Obama Unveils Plan To Protect 5 Million From Deportation

    Top Story — U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday unveiled a three-part executive order on immigration that would protect up to five million undocumented immigrants from deportation, sidestepping a year of gridlock over immigration reform in the Republican-led House of Representatives. The president’s plan, presented in a fifteen-minute speech, would also expand border enforcement and facilitate legal immigration for skilled immigrants. Obama stressed that while the nearly five million undocumented immigrants affected would be allowed to register and legally seek […]

    Read more →
  • Central America Honduras Today in Latin America Missing Beauty Queen, Sister, Found Dead in Honduras

    Missing Beauty Queen, Sister, Found Dead in Honduras

    Top Story — The bodies of reigning Miss Honduras María José Alvarado, 19, and her sister Sofía, 23, were found in a riverbank grave in an area west of the capital city, Tegucigalpa, police announced Wednesday. Since the sisters went missing on Nov. 13, their disappearance has become national news in the country with the world’s highest peacetime murder rate. Sofía Alvarado’s boyfriend, Plutarco Ruiz, has been arrested and is considered the main suspect in the killings. Aris Maldonado, an […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Colombia News Briefs North America Colombian Government and FARC Agree on Process to Free Kidnapped General

    Colombian Government and FARC Agree on Process to Free Kidnapped General

    An agreement has been reached between FARC rebels and the Colombia government on steps to release Gen. Rubén Darío Alzate, according to a statement released by the Cuban and Norwegian governments, which were involved in brokering the deal. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has suspended two-year-old peace talks with the FARC in the wake of Alzate’s capture, insisting that the talks would not resume until Alzate was returned. Alzate, who is the the highest-ranking officer to be taken by the […]

    Read more →
  • Mexico North America Today in Latin America Peña Nieto Says Protesters Seek To Destabilize Mexico

    Peña Nieto Says Protesters Seek To Destabilize Mexico

    Top Story — Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto on Tuesday accused “violent movements” of taking advantage of anger over the September disappearance of 43 students to sow unrest as discontent over the issue shows no sign of abating. His remarks come as pressure builds over the missing students from the rural Ayotzinapa teacher training school in Guerrero state, who officials recently said corrupt local police arrested and turned over to a drug gang, which killed them and incinerated their bodies. […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Peru Today in Latin America Report Highlights Activist Murders in Peru Ahead of Lima Climate Talks

    Report Highlights Activist Murders in Peru Ahead of Lima Climate Talks

    Top Story — Just two weeks before the U.N. Climate Change Conference begins in Lima, Peru, nonprofit Global Witness has released a widely publicized report naming the country the fourth deadliest in the world to be an environmental or land activist. Since 2002, 57 activists have been killed in Peru, more than half of them in the last four years. Peru is facing international scrutiny due to the slow pace of an investigation into the Aug. 31 killing of four […]

    Read more →
  • Brazil Southern Cone Today in Latin America Brazil Arrests 27 in Petrobras Corruption Scandal

    Brazil Arrests 27 in Petrobras Corruption Scandal

    Top Story — Brazilian authorities on Friday arrested 27 people in connection with an investigation into a multibillion-dollar corruption scheme at the state-run oil company Petrobras. Among the 27 was the firm’s engineering director, the second senior executive to be arrested in connection with the scandal. Following the arrests, President Dilma Rousseff said that the “symbolic case” would change Brazilian society forever. Rousseff served as energy minister under her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The investigation began when a […]

    Read more →
  • Colombia News Briefs Colombia Suspends Peace Talks Over General’s Apparent Kidnapping

    Colombia Suspends Peace Talks Over General’s Apparent Kidnapping

    Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has suspended the government’s peace talks with FARC guerrillas after the group’s apparent detention of an army general, jeopardizing the future of the negotiations at a key moment. General Rubén Darío Alzate and two others reportedly went missing in the rebel-dominated northern province of Chocó. The president has said that all signs point to FARC, and that he expects the group to release the three before continuing with negotiations. The FARC, however, have not confirmed […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Today in Latin America Venezuela Venezuela Court Refuses to Release Opposition Leader, Despite U.N. Appeal

    Venezuela Court Refuses to Release Opposition Leader, Despite U.N. Appeal

    Top Story — A Venezuelan court has refused to release leading opposition politician Leopoldo López, despite appeals by the United Nations, the López’s defense lawyer said Thursday. López has been imprisoned along with other opposition figures since February for his alleged role in anti-government protests that left at least 40 people dead and hundreds injured. He faces charges of inciting violence in an attempt to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro, who took office after his predecessor and mentor Hugo Chávez died […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Blog Colombia Today in Latin America FARC Apologizes for Killing Indigenous Leaders

    FARC Apologizes for Killing Indigenous Leaders

    Top Story — The FARC, Colombia’s largest rebel group, has issued a statment saying that they “profoundly lament” killing two indigenous Nasa men near the southwestern municipality of Toribío earlier this month. The apology comes after seven FARC rebels were put on trial in a tribal court for the killings on Nov. 9, and five of them given long prison sentences. The two Nasa men were part of the indigenous guard, the police force in the indigenous territory. According to […]

    Read more →