Conclusion & Recommendations

Google Maps does not include Palestinian areas that are unrecognised by Israel, or the term ‘Palestine’, yet it features illegal Israeli settlements within the West Bank. It ignores all movement restrictions that exist for Palestinians, such as checkpoints and restricted roads, which impede free movement of Palestinians, and, if not taken into consideration can cause severe danger for Palestinians. Route planning with Google Maps favours Israelis over Palestinians, given that the default routes are often only accessible for Israelis. In its refusal to display checkpoints and restricted roads, and Palestinian villages in the same detail as Israeli villages, Google Maps demonstrates its complicity in violating international law and human rights agreements. Instead of aligning itself with the policies and practices of Israeli authorities - or any one particular state - mapping services should operate in alignment with human rights standards and international law. Google Maps, as the largest global mapping and route planning service, has the power to influence global public opinion and therefore bears the responsibility to abide by international human rights standards and to offer a service that reflects the Palestinian reality. Instead of living up to this responsibility, Google has adopted the Israeli narrative, and only rarely allowed for mapping of some Palestinian cities in its Street View product.

Google’s Vision and Responsibility

In its company description, Google defines its goal as the following: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful, through services that can “[…] improve the lives of as many people as possible” (Google n.y., emphasis added). According to this description, Google aims at universality rather than marginalisation. This assumption can also be made from its slogan: “Not just for some. For Everyone.”(ebd.). In a letter penned by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 2004, they claim to “[…] provide unbiased, accurate and free access to information for those who rely on [them] around the world” (Page, Brin 2004, emphasis added), in order to add to “a well functioning society” (ebd.) and “make the world a better place”. In the same document, it is stated that “Google [...] has a responsibility to the world” (Page, Brin 2004).

Google, as part of the Global Network Initiative (GNI) is furthermore dedicated to an upholding of international human rights standards, and in specific that "[i]f national laws, regulations and policies do not conform to international standards, ICT companies should avoid, minimize, or otherwise address the adverse impact of government demands, laws, or regulations, and seek ways to honor the principles of internationally recognized human rights to the greatest extent possible" (GNI n.y., emphasis added). By completely adapting the Israeli government narrative, Google contradicts not only the dedication to internationally recognized legal frameworks, but furthermore this guiding principle of GNI.

Google and its services have become essential to everyday life across the globe. As it provides these services, claims neutrality even though it has adopted a highly political stance. Google openly acknowledges its responsibility to its customers, stakeholders, and the world at large, yet Palestinians seem to have been left out of this pledge. This discrimination against Palestinians is a clear contradiction of the values Google claims to have, and its unwillingness to provide a true account of the reality in Palestine reflects Google’s bias in favour of advancing the Israeli government’s agenda vis-a-vis Palestine.


Google Maps should:

  • Provide the same level of detail in its representation of Palestinian villages in Area C as it gives to Israeli settlements
  • Recognize and mark the illegality of Israeli settlements on its maps in accordance with Art. 49 IV Geneva Convention and Art. 55 of the Hague Regulations
  • Clearly mark Areas A, B and C within the West Bank
  • Recognize all movement restrictions and restricted roads for Palestinians and clearly display them
  • Name Palestine on Google Maps in accordance with UN General Assembly decision of November 2012
  • Clearly distinguish routes which are only available to Israeli ID holders
  • Offer route planning for West Bank Palestinians which takes into account all restrictions on movement
  • Recognize Jerusalem as designated international status in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 181
  • Live up to its values, ideals and responsibilities and reflect them in all its services