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Cities in Israel and Cyprus disappear on Flickr, Nokia Maps to blame

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After Apple's Maps debacle, we're used to mistakes or problems with mapping software. But a few days ago, Flickr users started noticing that the details from two entire countries — Cyprus and Israel — had dropped off the face of the earth. Where there had been streets or city names, there was now blank space. It soon became apparent that the problem lay with Nokia Maps, which was recently rebranded Here and helps power maps for Yahoo, Flickr, and Windows Phone 8 among other things. While OpenStreetMaps, which also provides data for Flickr, had detailed city and street information, only three Israeli cities were labeled on Here, and the map included only the barest road details.

"Our aim of course is to cover the whole world, but in some cases we don’t have high quality data."

Nokia has responded to CNET about the complaints, saying that more details for both Israel and Cyprus should be available in the next few months. "In order to guarantee our users the best experience when using Nokia Maps we aim for the highest possible quality standards when offering our service," a spokesperson from Nokia Australia said. That matches what the company said in an interview yesterday, where it admitted that Israel, South Korea, and Japan were all missing from its coverage. "Our aim of course is to cover the whole world, but in some cases we don’t have high quality data... so we prefer to hold back until we do rather than release a low standard service."

The statement about mapping Cyprus was more unusual. "As per Nokia's long-standing policy, we are committed to neutrality and impartiality with regards to political issues," it reads. Nokia did not elaborate further, but it's possible that these mapping issues are related to ongoing negotiations between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey over who should control the northern part of the island — something that doesn't seem to have affected Google or Bing Maps.

Since the Flickr issue was first reported a few days ago, its maps have been updated with OpenStreetMap or other data, so Israel's roads and city names are now back. On Windows Phone 8 and Nokia's web client, however, the gaps persist, and likely will for some time yet.

Update: Google and Bing Maps are indeed affected to some extent by the conflict: mapmakers must decide how to name some cities, taking either the Greek or Turkish names. However, neither has opted for Nokia's solution: leaving out much of the information altogether.