Beware, your location can affect Map Charts in Excel

Microsoft changes what’s displayed in Excel Map Charts depending on your location and Microsoft’s policies in certain countries like China.

We’ve had reports from people in China and Hong Kong that they can’t ‘see’ Taiwan on their Excel Map Charts.

In most of the world, China and Taiwan show up as separate areas.

Microsoft, like all other big companies, has to deal with political and diplomatic demands.  So, we weren’t surprised to hear reports that Taiwan is treated differently in Excel Map Charts depending on the users location.

As you may know, there’s a long running dispute about the status of Taiwan. The mainland Chinese government insists that Taiwan is a ‘renegade’ province of ‘One China’.  The Taiwanese authorities treat the island as an independent, self-governing, country.  Any country, company or even individuals publicly suggesting that Taiwan is separate from China is likely to be attacked by the mainland authorities and Chinese nationalists.

Office Watch doesn’t have a position on the status of Taiwan, we’re so unqualified to have an opinion on such an important diplomatic and geopolitical matter.

After writing about annoyances in Excel Map Charts, we’ve heard from readers in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan about the different Excel Map displays from the same data.

Map Charts can change depending on the users Microsoft account.  If the users account is based in mainland China (including Hong Kong), Taiwan won’t be shown as a separate country.  But a user account with a Taiwanese location accepts Taiwan just like the image shown above.

Most interesting was a report from a user with two computers.  One with a HK email address and account, the other based in Taiwan.  The same chart works quite differently on each computer (regardless, it seems, on the physical location of the machine).

These are reports from readers that we’ve not been able to confirm.

All the major tech companies (Google, Apple and Microsoft) adjust their maps and info to the expectations of governments in various parts of the world.    Crimea can appear differently in Google and Apple Maps.  Kashmir disputed territory between India and Pakistan.    China-India border conflict.  MapWatch has a good summary of these anomalies.

Recently Bing ‘accidently’ dropped images of the Tiananmen Square ‘Tank Man’ and it’s not the first time such politically convenient ‘bugs’ have creeped into Bing.

Excel’s geographical differences

That these differences affect Excel might surprise.  But Excel Map Charts is a cloud service using Bing Maps data so the same Microsoft imposed ‘rules’ will apply.

Maybe there are similar subtleties in Excel Linked Data Types like Geography and Location?

It’s also intriguing that, from the info we have, the differences are applied according to the location of a users Microsoft account (saved location or email address) not the current location of the physical computer.

What can you do?

It’s important to remember that data and charts added to Excel are subject to corporate bias as well as mistakes or bad data.

Excel’s Linked Data Types, Map Charts and other cloud services should not be treated as ‘holy writ’.  Always check the information provided by Microsoft’s automated services.

Be careful with Excel 365’s Linked Data Types
Excel Map Charts are way overdue for fixes
More strangeness with Excel Map Charts

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