An anonymous reader writes: Wired reports, "Beneath its slick interface and crystal clear GPS-enabled vision of the world, Google Maps roils with local rivalries, score-settling, and deception. 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. .... Google has gotten much better at policing malicious edits, to the point where they’re rare today. ... The system has loopholes though, and troves of money-hungry spammers looking for weaknesses. 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. Seely channeled the incoming phone calls through to the real agencies while recording them. The stunt got a lot of attention. The Secret Service told Seely he was “a hero” for showing them the vulnerability."