Details of cities and even prison camps in North Korea became more visible on Tuesday when Google updated its Google Maps application to include information citizen cartographers have been providing it about the country through a crowdsourcing development program called Map Maker.
But even more details have already been available and in use through crowdsourcing efforts using the Google Earth application, which is based on satellite data.
A Google spokesman told the Wall Street Journal, that the company had noticed that the community of people interested in mapping tends to be separate from those who concentrate on satellite images.
"This data has been in Map Maker for a while now, but it commonly takes the Map Maker community a few years to generate enough high quality data to make something that works in Google Maps," the spokesman said.
Prison camps, such as Bukchange Gulag, in North Korea can be seen in Google Maps as city-sized brown shaded regions across the beige background. But they count as only a fraction of those identified using other private mapping efforts, North Korea crowdsourcing cartographer Curtis Melvin told the WSJ.