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How Google Map Hackers Can Destroy a Business 132

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 ArhcAngel ( 247594 ) on Thursday July 10, 2014 @04:20PM (#47426663)
    What you might not have known (but should have) is all those listings in the yellow pages were paid advertisements. The yellow page market used to be extremely competitive with numerous companies fighting for a business' 2" x 2" to full page ad. We're talking about free (as in beer) marketing and the ole adage "you get what you pay for" applies here. It's word of mouth in the internet age which is both good and bad. If just one person can get your customers to believe something unflattering about your business it can ruin you. That's why another adage "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" is just as true. The quicker you can catch the nefarious mischief the quicker you can curtail any damage.
  • by su5so10 ( 2542686 ) on Thursday July 10, 2014 @04:32PM (#47426771) Homepage

    Are you using "Google My Business" ( It should stop your listings from being hijacked.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 10, 2014 @04:49PM (#47426915)

    I worked at an also-ran Yelp competitor, and seeing locksmiths singled out as one of the perpetrators here is utterly unsurprising. They accounted for probably 98% of the spamming and shady activity on our site. We got to the point that we totally barred businesses from being created that contained a fuzzy match on lock (they tried 1ocksmith, l0c|smith, etc) unless they paid a vetting fee. That made them switch to spamming other random business's reviews with ads for themselves, falsely marking competitors as closed or as having invalid phone #s, giving their competitors legit-sounding negative reviews, etc. They clearly did it all by hand, which actually made it in some ways harder to combat than a more predictable script-based attack.

    Don't know what makes locksmithing such an epicenter of shadiness, but I hope Google and the other players in the business listing space figure out a way to stamp out this behavior for good.

  • by richlv ( 778496 ) on Thursday July 10, 2014 @07:57PM (#47428277) [] ?

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor