Too many Rio favelas on Google maps?


Google has agreed to change its maps of Rio de Janeiro after some here complained that shantytowns are displayed more prominently than tourist attractions, the newspaper O Globo reports.

The forested hills of Rio de Janeiro are dotted with hundreds of un-planned shantytowns called favelas — communities that for almost 100 years didn’t show up on any city map.

But, as this screen grab illustrates, it seems Google has the opposite problem. At some levels of magnification, Rio’s favelas are listed more frequently—and in some cases instead of—some of the seaside city’s famous tourist spots or formal neighborhoods.

The BBC pointed out that, on some sizes of the search giant’s Rio maps, small favelas like Villa Imaculate Conceicao are listed while formal neighborhoods like Cosmo Velho and Rio icons like the Sugar Loaf mountain don’t show up at all.

The newspaper O Globo complained yesterday that the map gives the false impression the city is “nothing more than an immense cluster of favelas."

Calling the maps "absurd," special secretary for tourism Antonio Pedro Figueira de Mello said officials have been asking Google to change the images since 2009.

Google spokesman Felix Ximenes told O Globo the company’s Rio map was made by a city native and reflected no negative intentions on the part of the company. 

Google bought the city’s place-name information from an outside source didn’t prioritize how these labels are automatically displayed on the map, Ximenes said.  He added that Google's Rio maps will be gradually updated so that place labels are displayed in different sizes and favela names show up only after users zoom in. 

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