The Coca-Cola Company is in hot water with Chinese authorities over allegedly using handheld GPS devices to map parts of southwestern Yunnan province, reports The Wall Street Journal. The case is one of 21 related to illegal surveying in the region. Coke claims no wrongdoing, saying it used standard "e-map and location-based customer logistics systems" to increase its fuel efficiency and provide better customer service, adding that the systems are used "across many industries in China and world-wide." The company also insists that it is in full compliance with regulations, and noted that it is cooperating with the Yunnan government to resolve the matter. The news was first reported on a Yunnan government web site.

China is cautious about who it lets provide mapping services

The Journal points out that China is cautious about who it lets provide mapping services within its borders, both for national security reasons and because of the political sensitivity of contested borders and place names. As handheld GPS technology like mobile phones have gained popularity, China has been clamping down, and the deputy director of the bureau investigating Coke stressed the urgency of punishing offenders in a national radio broadcast, reported by The Financial Times.

The news recalls Google’s data-slurping Street View misadventures, and follows a particularly tense month in China-US relations. In February, computer security company Mandiant published a lengthy report implicating the Chinese military in hacking attacks on US businesses and infrastructure. While China has countered that the US is behind its own cyberattacks on Defense Ministry and china Military Online sites, the US continues to ramp up threats of retaliation.