More on Live Maps in China: O’Reilly interviews Vincent Tao

Some interesting information from Vincent Tao, Senior Director of Virtual Earth and Live Local Search at Microsoft, from an interview by Brady Forrest at O’Reilly Radar.  While is fully available in China, the version does not presently include any imagery, nor does it contain readily available latitude and longitude information, in accordance with the quite strict regulations from the Chinese government.  From the interview:

What’s coming in the future? Will there be an API? Will there be aerial or satellite imagery? Why is there satellite imagery of China in the US version and not in the Chinese version?
[VT] We have our roadmap for China VE services both in B2C and B2B. Our VE API will be available for enterprise and mashup users in a not too distant future. We are looking into the image solutions. So far there are some issues, not technical, about on-line image publishing in China. 

Was the data allowed to leave China? What other restrictions were placed on the data and its use?
[VT] The map data is not allowed to leave the border. Some other countries also have the same regulations (Korea for example). In China, maps can only be provided by the licensed map data providers. Also the on-line publishing maps need to go through a ‘encryption’ process whereby map coordinates are transformed to an unknown coordinate system (not in Lat/Long). This is mainly for the national security reason as far as I know.

What are the issues surrounding showing images? Why would they be more concerned about their own population seeing them? Is blocked in China?
[VT] The same reason as above. In general, mapping is a highly regulated area in China and so on-line mapping services. Given the incredible opportunity in China commercial mapping market and the coming Olympic event, the China mapping agency is actively developing and examining their data policy and regulations. I was using when I was travelling China. Our site is running just fine.