Rio de Janeiro has a problem with Google: the city's impoverished favelas are thoroughly documented on Google Maps's depiction of the area, but some of the middle-class neighborhoods are missing altogether. An editorial in O Globo, one of Rio's daily newspapers, complains that visitors will have the "false impression that the urban area is nothing more than an immense agglomerate of favelas," according to The Daily Telegraph.
On the Google Maps rendering of Rio, what O Globo describes as several "tiny and unknown" favelas are clearly marked, while wealthier and more tourist-friendly neighborhoods don't show up unless you use the zoom function. Valeria Sampaio, a resident of one of these wealthier neighborhoods, says that "anyone who does not know the city and decides to take a tour with the map will take fright ... At the least, the names of the slums could appear in a smaller size on the site to show the difference in importance."
The Telegraph points out that Rio de Janeiro has reason to be image-conscious right now, since it will be hosting the 2014 World Cup final and the 2016 Olympics. A spokesman for Google has said that they're aware of the inconsistency and "are working to treat this information in a more efficient way."
Evidently, this problem has existed for at least a year: a post from a Rio resident on the Google help forum, dated April 27, 2010, complains that "it appears that whoever provided local map names to Google Maps wanted to give the impression that the whole city has nothing but slums ... Most of the map gives much more emphasis to smaller slums than large and important districts." The posting was never answered.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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