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How Google Map Hackers Can Destroy a Business 132

Posted by timothy
from the you-aren't-here dept.
An anonymous reader writes with an excerpt from Wired about the one big problem that comes with crowdsourced data: enough eyeballs may make all bugs shallow, but may not fare as well against malice and greed: Maps are dotted with thousands of spam business listings for nonexistent locksmiths and plumbers. Legitimate businesses sometimes see their listings hijacked by competitors or cloned into a duplicate with a different phone number or website. In January, someone bulk-modified the Google Maps presence of thousands of hotels around the country, changing the website URLs to a commercial third-party booking site ... Small businesses are the usual targets. ....These attacks happen because Google Maps is, at its heart, a massive crowdsourcing project, a shared conception of the world that skilled practitioners can bend and reshape in small ways using tools like Google's Mapmaker or Google Places for Business. ... In February, an SEO consultant-turned-whistleblower named Bryan Seely demonstrated the risk dramatically when he set up doppelganger Google Maps listings for the offices of the FBI and Secret Service..
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How Google Map Hackers Can Destroy a Business

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 10, 2014 @02:25PM (#47426279)

    At this point, I would happily pay Google to enforce my listing information. I have spent many man-weeks worth of time over the last 5 years trying to keep my listings from being hijacked.

    Problem reports to Google take months to be answered, if ever. If I make changes to my listings to keep them "fresh" it takes dozens of weeks for those changes to be approved. It seems like ANY differing data that Google scrapes from the web is prioritized over my painstakingly maintained listings.

    Oh, and about 95% of my customers use Google Maps instead of the phone book. This is a huge deal to me.

    It's one of their most visible, most used products, and Google appears to give not half-a-shit about the businesses out there that they screw over by prioritizing inaccurate information over the real deal. It's weird.

  • by preaction (1526109) on Thursday July 10, 2014 @02:32PM (#47426335)

    Wikipedia's core tenet is "Everyone can edit". I've known I could edit it since the day I started using it. I just learned today, just now, that I can edit Google Maps, and I've been using it for years. Consequently, I have more trust in Google Maps (despite being burned a few times) than I do in wikipedia, even though wikipedia's citation policy lets me see how they got their information.

  • by SpzToid (869795) on Thursday July 10, 2014 @02:32PM (#47426341)

    Yesterday, when I read this article, I checked out a location which I'm not willing to share here. On it was exactly this type of 'theft' of location, and street-view manipulation as explained in this article. In fact I had noticed the hack before in this location, but not realized it as such.

    Yesterday, when I looked and saw the display via the new GMAPs interface, I was amazed at the *quality* of the hack. A dirty, mouse-infested hotel down the street 'occupied' a very desirable corner location and cafe. Using street-view, it appeared as if the cafe was the hotel's bar. Plus they had purchased an ad to book the hotel when you clicked the PIN, and the result looked IMHO better than a professional web-page for such a purpose (because of the new GMAPs interface and presentation). The final result was a stuning, quality, hack I thought, and everyone I showed it to agreed. But I give more credit to dumb luck plus the new GMAPs interface then cleverness by the thieving hotel owner.

    I used the 'suggest an edit' tool to report the manipulation to Google, and also input new, accurate information for the cafe on the corner, and other neighborhood features.

    Weird thing is, today when I look via various machines inthe office, I see various displays. Some showing the old GMAPs interface, some new. Some with the dirty hotel competely removed from the map, and the cafe added. Like DNS, it seems it takes a while for GMAPs to get updated, and probably the more people that offer input the better.

  • by Albanach (527650) on Thursday July 10, 2014 @02:58PM (#47426543) Homepage

    Fifteen years ago, you opened the yellow pages for the same information. Did you say then, who controls this book? Did you worry about all the power being in the hands of a single phone company?

    Likely not, and for two reasons. If the phone company abused it, they'd lose the trust and goodwill that makes the very product valuable, and if it was no longer accurate someone else would come alone and make an accurate version.

    Why is that not the same for Google? If their maps become unreliable, won't people move to Bing? If not, why not?

  • by LoRdTAW (99712) on Thursday July 10, 2014 @03:01PM (#47426567)

    This was discussed already and the general conclusion was the restaurant had very poor service. Poor service will kill a reputation faster than anything else. I remember going to a restaurant that was short staffed. They were trying to accommodate people, and were nice about it. But after waiting 30 minutes for bread, we left. You can always expect bad reviews based on food, you can't please everyone.

    Plus I don't think Google information can kill a place in just a few weeks. People have phones and call ahead to confirm hours, seating availability, location and even directions. I know I always call. It's lazy people who just browse Google and believe everything they see without confirmation.

    Website: http://www.serbiancrown.com/ [serbiancrown.com]

    Yelp Reviews: http://www.yelp.com/biz/serbian-crown-restaurant-great-falls [yelp.com]

    Trip Advisor reviews: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g57783-d497915-Reviews-The_Serbian_Crown_Restaurant-Great_Falls_Fairfax_County_Virginia.html [tripadvisor.com]

    Google Maps entry: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Serbian+Crown+Restaurant/@38.97349,-77.295876,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x89b6360d0a8fbba5:0x79a2bbe49b2f3a1e [google.com]

    Most of the reviews complain about very poor service. Waiters not checking up on the tables, one guest said they had to wander around to find a water pitcher and refill it themselves. People have waited 30+ minutes to receive the menu and bread. One guest claimed they were there for over 3 hours in total waiting for various courses. Guests would arrive only to find there was not host/hostess at the podium to seat them. Guests complained about rude staff both in person and over the phone. And these aren't recent complaints, they go back to 2010.

  • by noldrin (635339) on Thursday July 10, 2014 @03:03PM (#47426579)
    I'm not sure that they want to. The way they seem to be verifying authenticity of listings is through Google+, the current situation encourages businesses to sign up and properly set up their Google+ pages, if they fixed it, then there would be far less need for the companies to use Google+

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