Chile: Fact-checking Villa O’Higgins

A Chilean village in Patagonia on the border with Chile is shown as belonging to Argentina in Google Earth, reports Reuters:

The Chilean government wants Google to fix its Earth geographical search program that places a village named after Chilean independence hero Bernardo O’Higgins in Argentina.

A quick check shows this to indeed be the case:


Villa O’Higgins does indeed seem to be mislabeled, the border mismapped, and all this uncontested by Argentina — a rare factual error. (Google’s Megan Quinn says they’re looking for more accurate data for the region.)

Both the place and border data is provided by Europa Technologies. I wonder how this error managed to get into the dataset: Is the border we see an old border? Fiction? :-) It’d be great to find out.

Moral of the story (not that you haven’t heard it here before): People (and their governments) care deeply about the accuracy of Google’s geographic data. The upside: With masses of people fact-checking the minutest details of Google’s dataset every day, it must be getting quite accurate indeed by now.

4 thoughts on “Chile: Fact-checking Villa O’Higgins”

  1. Stefan:

    It looks to me that the error is more likely a case of aggressively generalizing the border (throwing out vertices in polylines in order to make the overall file size smaller–a prime consideration for web mapping), rather than an error of commission. In the best of all worlds GE would stream more accurate detailed line work as the viewer zoomed in. However, in defense of Google, I am fairly certain there is no 1:5000 “master international borders” data set that they could simply publish and all parties would be happy. As the recent Iran-UK dustup highlighted, the world is often more ambiguous than we presumptuous empiricists would like it to be.


  2. Yes, but look at the label — it clearly labels the place as being in Argentina. Also, if you look at another case of the the scale of the border not matching the zoom level — in Jerusalem — then you can clearly see the granularity of the polylines. That’s not the case here.

  3. Not only Villa O’Higgins: all the border to the south is in excess. Inclusively it takes the South Ice Fields (from the line more down to the west) …that is not yet delimited according to an international treaty between both countries. Why Google display this? There’s an office of Google in Argentina, but not in Chile…

  4. If anyone has been in that region, they would know that ruling governments and nation states have very little to do with life there. Its so “outback” its unreal. Call it what you want, Argentina, Chile (it should be in Chile), but you better know some spanish and know where to get food, water and shelter for yourself. The last thing on your mind down there is what country you are in – you are just really far removed and taking in nature .

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