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Using Google Maps To Intercept FBI and Secret Service Calls

Soulskill posted about 5 months ago | from the enjoy-your-stay-on-government-watchlists dept.

Google 137

An anonymous reader sends in a story about a network engineer named Bryan Seely, who was tired of seeing fake listings and spam on Google Maps. He contacted the company and tried to convince them to fix their system, but didn't have much luck. Afterward, he thought of an effective demonstration. He put up fake listings for the FBI and the Secret Service with phone numbers that sent the calls to him. When people called, he forwarded them to the actual agencies while he listened in. After recording a couple of calls for proof, he went to a local Secret Service office to explain the problem: "After that, Seely says, he got patted down, read his Miranda rights, and put in an interrogation room. Email correspondence with the Secret Service indicates that the special agent in charge called him a 'hero' for bringing this major security flaw to light. They let him go after a few hours. Seely says the fake federal listings, which were both ranked second every time I checked Google Maps, were up for four days. He took them down himself when the Secret Service asked."

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Gee, didn't they tell us ... (1)

Plumpaquatsch (2701653) | about 5 months ago | (#46375335)

Gee, didn't they tell us only Apple Maps had problems?

Re:Gee, didn't they tell us ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46375395)

No. They didn't, at least not as far as I remember.

Apple Maps was (and maybe still is) a low quality product, but I don't think anyone was suggesting it was the only one.

Re:Gee, didn't they tell us ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46375989)

i'm really happy with apple maps these days. the directions work well and it doesn't track and report back my location like google maps does, while it sits in the background. For a while I had both apple maps and google maps installed on my phone, but when I read that I uninstalled google maps completely.

people also forget another thing about apple maps. for a long while mapping on mobile sucked completely. it was 1998-style tile-based google maps that didn't zoom well and didn't search well and had no offline caching. Then google started improving, but only for android and leaving iPhone stuck in the dust. when apple maps was released, within 4 mo goog had a new app that brought over all the android features. so from that perspective apple maps greatly improved the mapping experience on the iPhone, regardless of which mapping service you used.

mad props though - google maps on desktop has the best transit planner I have ever seen, by far.

Re:Gee, didn't they tell us ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46376233)

2/10.

Re: Gee, didn't they tell us ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46376743)

The 'google' map app (that was out before apple maps ) was made by apple. Don't blame google.

Re:Gee, didn't they tell us ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46375541)

LOL!!!
Yes, "they" did.

Re:Gee, didn't they tell us ... (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 4 months ago | (#46376915)

Gee, didn't they tell us only Apple Maps had problems?

Only if "they" refers to Slashdotters or tech pundits. But Apple Maps *did* have significant - even egregious - errors/problems at launch. It seems quite usable now.

My preferred navigation app has been Waze, but that is unfortunately going downhill since the Google acquisition. They seem more interested in adding ads rather than fixing the app's shortcomings. It's usually really good for highways and major thoroughfares (although oddly enough it picked a really weird and obviously wrong route for me after the first post-acquisition app update); but, at least when I've tested it in and around Seattle, it often picks bizarre routes in the city - roads that any resident could tell you are going to take two or three times as long to get there (and yes, I've occasionally driven them anyway to be sure Waze didn't know something I'd overlooked).

tl;dr (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46375349)

Dicenuts

Patting down (3, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 5 months ago | (#46375401)

"I got a pat on the back...and them some."

Re:Patting down (4, Funny)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 5 months ago | (#46375409)

I like my coffee like I like my Secret Service agents -- black helicopters.

Re:Patting down (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46376345)

Exposing Systemic Security Problems For Fun And Pats

Re:Patting down (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46377301)

He was called a "hero" by a secret service lackey. That translates to "traitor to the United States" these days. Praise from evil isn't good praise.

Intercept Beta and kill it (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46375411)

Why can't Google intercept slashdot beta and kill it off before it ruins everything?

That would be doing the world a lot of good!

Re:Intercept Beta and kill it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46376867)

As long as I still have the option to disable the inferior shitty new interface, I'll still be here once in a while.

Change for the sake of change is pointless. If you're going to overhaul a site completely, at least make it better instead of just rearranging shit and moving laterally (or even backwards) and stop trying to force it down our throats when it clearly isn't even half finished. You FUCKS

Old news. (4, Interesting)

Antarell (930241) | about 5 months ago | (#46375421)

When I was working in retail about 5 years ago competitors of ours did the same. Our store name, their phone number.

That's similar to why dial phones were invented. (4, Interesting)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 4 months ago | (#46376545)

When I was working in retail about 5 years ago competitors of ours did the same. Our store name, their phone number.

That reminds me of why dial phones were invented.

Early telephone exchanges used an operator to connect all calls. You picked up the phone and this lit a lamp and sounded a buzzer at an operator's console in the central office. The operator pulgged a cable into a jac and talked to you, found out who you wanted to talk to, and plugged another cable into the other customer's jack (or a trunk to another operator) to hook you up. Similarly when you hung up, or (if the call needed some other modification and you "flashed" by flicking the hook switch).

Some businesses bribed unscrupulous operators to redirect their competitor's calls to them, stealiing some of their buiness (especially in high customer turnover businesses, where a large fraction of the calls were initial contacts.) There was much flap over this, of course.

One such customer - an undertaker - decided to attack this problem at its root. He also happened to be what we'd now call a hacker (in the "exceptionally competent technologist" sense). He developed the earliest version of a dial telephone system, and got one of the telephone companies serving his area to install it. Electromechanical stepper switches were not susceptable to bribery, problem solved.

Of course electromechanical stepper switches are also cheaper than even low-wage people. So dial systems caught on very quickly. You still needed operators for non-simple stuff, but a company handling the bulk of the calls mechanically needed far less of them, and when such service was available businesses switched over en masse.

Re:That's similar to why dial phones were invented (1)

Solandri (704621) | about 4 months ago | (#46377171)

This is much. much older than that. Once upon a time, probably soon after paper and writing were invented, someone invented the bulletin board. Initially people used it to post messages. Then someone posted an advertisement for their apple wagon just up the street. Then someone else changed the location in the ad to the location of their apple wagon just down the street.

Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (5, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 5 months ago | (#46375437)

Is it really a good idea to contact these law enforcement agencies directly, via a cold call? These agents come with varying background and knowledge about various spheres of life. You can't expect all FBI agents to be well versed in cyber crime etc. And most of them deal with law breakers most of the time. After spending decades in that mode, they would be suspicious of everything. Yes, most criminals would not contact the cops voluntarily. But many mentally unstable people would, so would people with political axes to grind looking to find some patsy to create a media story. So cops would be quite suspicious of people, even if they voluntarily call them. So even if I stumble on some serious security hole, I am not sure I would directly call the cops.

But there will be access logs and ip addresses saved in all kinds of places that will have evidence that I had stumbled on to that security hole. If I try to cover my tracks that would be even more trouble for me.

I don't know what the right thing to do would be. May be I should spring for a lawyer, document everything with my lawyer and use the lawyer to contact the agencies.

Is there a recommended way by FBI or Secret Service where one can go, establish the non-criminal bona-fide of oneself and have an intelligent conversation with someone and point out such security flaws? It is in the interest of FBI to maintain such a unit.

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46375497)

Clean rooms are rated as class 1, class 10, class 100, class 1000 and class 10,000. The numbers are the maximum count of 0.5 micron sized particles permitted in a cubic foot of air. The old federal standard for clean rooms is FED STD 209E, recently replaced by the international standard ISO 14 644. I'm guessing the ISO standard costs bucks and the FED standard is probably free so pick and choose. A class 1000 clean room would not be that hard to build and maintain. Clean, painted surfaces all around, some sort of air filtration system with positive pressure, no textiles, pencils, powdered gloves allowed. You'd have to wear clean room smocks, booties and bonnet. The room would have to be vacuumed daily (with a vacuum exhausting to the outside) and the particulate count verified daily. An air shower and sticky mat at the entrance would be a good thing. Now that's just for a class 1000 clean room. Imagine what it takes for a class 1 clean room!! :)

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (1, Interesting)

cold fjord (826450) | about 5 months ago | (#46375501)

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46377099)

Irrelevant/off-topic. Do not stray from your core mission again, or we will be forced to terminate your contract. That is all.

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46375685)

I've done it, exposing criminal fraud of spammers. I happened to be visiting DC, so took the time to meet the agent whom I'd been corresponding with and trying to get Secret Service interest because I thought it would fall under wire fraud. Local police departments had been unwilling to deal with it without proving that the spammers were from their jurisdiction, and wouldn't bother obtaining the warrants needed to get ISP logs without that proof. And the FBI kept blowing me off.

The Secret Service agent I spoke with was interested, but let me know why he couldn't justify further investigation. Without a clear abused victim with a clear monetary damage of at least $30,000, he couldn't justify obtaining the necessary necessary agency time to get the warrants to track the spammers and the fraud. So I learned a hard lesson: getting the specific criminal act of large enough damage to *justify* prosecutorial interest is key. It's why so many low scale spammers and fraudsters continue so long: they operate under the radar of police or FBI or Secret Service wire fraud thresholds.

It's a lesson that's been helpful to me in security work: It really helps to have a killer risk or a single incident to hang justification for the change in practices or policies on, as a managerial justification for time and money and resources.

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (5, Insightful)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 4 months ago | (#46376079)

The Secret Service agent I spoke with was interested, but let me know why he couldn't justify further investigation. Without a clear abused victim with a clear monetary damage of at least $30,000, he couldn't justify obtaining the necessary necessary agency time to get the warrants to track the spammers and the fraud. So I learned a hard lesson: getting the specific criminal act of large enough damage to *justify* prosecutorial interest is key. It's why so many low scale spammers and fraudsters continue so long: they operate under the radar of police or FBI or Secret Service wire fraud thresholds.

On the other hand... had that spammer tried to sell *one* bootleg copy of a movie...

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (2)

BradMajors (995624) | about 4 months ago | (#46376779)

he couldn't justify obtaining the necessary necessary agency time to get the warrants to track the spammers

Snowden's documents showed that the FBI was getting information from the NSA on drug traffickers without obtaining warrants.

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (1)

swillden (191260) | about 4 months ago | (#46376923)

he couldn't justify obtaining the necessary necessary agency time to get the warrants to track the spammers

Snowden's documents showed that the FBI was getting information from the NSA on drug traffickers without obtaining warrants.

Yeah, but that's DRUGS. Don't you know there's a war on DRUGS?

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (1)

ACNiel (604673) | about 4 months ago | (#46377855)

If it was large enough for the NSA to trip over (that is how these findings got from NSA to FBI and DEA, they tripped over them, said "hey this isn't terror, but someone might care") it was bigger than the fraudster.

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46375847)

If you're interested in responsible disclosure to federal agencies, you should look into Infragard [infragard.org]

No solution... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46375855)

Sorry, you seem to be under the impression that there exist in the U.S. "non-criminals" from the perspective of L.E. agencies.

Re:No solution... (3, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | about 4 months ago | (#46376573)

Sorry, you seem to be under the impression that there exist in the U.S. "non-criminals" from the perspective of L.E. agencies.

Of course they exist. They're everyone above you in the chain of command.

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (4, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 4 months ago | (#46375915)

yes, even being near a crime can get you in trouble.

there was a time that I saw a car up on blocks with its wheels gone (down the street from where I used to live, a nice safe area in mtn view). I thought it odd that there was such a theft like this and I had my camera with me at the time so I shot a few pics. a cop came by and started hassling me. at the time, I had no idea why.

when I asked around (and did some research) it seems that some thieves do their deed and then come back again to photo it, maybe for bragging rights or something. and so, if you take pics of something like this, you may run into some 'questioning' from those in blue. sad but true.

I would not ever voluntarily go talk to a cop or walk into a cop station, these days. you put yourself at risk every time you encounter one of those guys. I don't need problems in my life so I avoid those guys at all cost even though I'm not doing a single thing wrong.

lesson: don't tangle with authority unless you have all your bases covered. even then, if its not your business, just stay the hell out of their sphere. these days, we are all 'suspects' and even a perfectly innocent person can run into trouble in spite of having neutral or even good intentions.

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 4 months ago | (#46376597)

Strange, why would they think the suspect would leave, and then come back for the photos? Most people who would do that know they have very little time to work. Once the car is noticed missing or found, they're done. Sure, they like their trophies, but going back the next day is a huge risk they usually aren't willing to do. It's safer to steal another car for anything they may have forgotten.

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46376703)

Easy.
Stealing Tire = 45 seconds.
Stealing Tire + Taking Several Good Pictures = 75seconds (and you are holding the evidence)
Coming back the next day, the evidence is long gone and you can claim you were just taking a picture
just like this guy did.
You would probably see this more with grafitti artists but if you want a picture of your
deed, it makes sense to do the deed, stash the evidence, then come back later to
take pictures as an "innocent" bystander.

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 4 months ago | (#46377393)

What's better, a pic of your crime, or a pic of your crime with a bunch of dumb cops around, looking perplexed?

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (4, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | about 4 months ago | (#46376627)

I would not ever voluntarily go talk to a cop or walk into a cop station, these days. you put yourself at risk every time you encounter one of those guys.

You've got serious problems there if a law abiding citizen cannot talk to the cops.

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (5, Insightful)

Seraphim1982 (813899) | about 4 months ago | (#46376665)

With all the laws we have now the idea of a "law abiding citizen" is a fantasy. Everyone has broken some law.

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46376851)

With all the laws we have now the idea of a "law abiding citizen" is a fantasy. Everyone has broken some law.

Too true.

  And people wonder why I automatically vote AGAINST any candidate who wants to raise taxes on ANYONE.

Yeah, that all gets "invested". In the NSA.

Fuck that. Governments in the US do NOT need more power nor more money.

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46377827)

With all the laws we have now the idea of a "law abiding citizen" is a fantasy. Everyone has broken some law.

That'sThePoint.jpg

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (1)

ProfanityHead (198878) | about 4 months ago | (#46378295)

The real issue is that law enforcement has become big business. They're out for convictions, doesn't matter if you actually did anything illegal or not.

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46376933)

You've got serious problems there if a law abiding citizen cannot talk to the cops.

Yes. Yes, we do.

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about 4 months ago | (#46377403)

Where do you live where the goal of a cop isn't to put everyone behind bars? The only question left in the US is "who first?"

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46378181)

Yes we do have serious problems talking to cops, here in the USA. Unless you know the cop, or they have a fair and honest reputation, stay away. Too often the Chief or Sheriff wants to pad the books to look tough on crime. I got pulled over for driving normally (the road has painted lines that vary in distance from the true edge of the road by about 18 inches). Now I follow the lines, even when the lines are wrong. It was a Friday, early evening. The cop let me go after telling me the Sheriff wanted to increase DUI busts, since there were four taverns nearby.He was pulling everyone over that he could, for any little reason.

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (2)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 4 months ago | (#46378385)

I would not ever voluntarily go talk to a cop or walk into a cop station, these days. you put yourself at risk every time you encounter one of those guys.

You've got serious problems there if a law abiding citizen cannot talk to the cops.

You said it, not me....

Now if only everyone else could connect those dots and vote/run for office appropriately.

Tim Masters would agree... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46376735)

"you put yourself at risk every time you encounter one of those guys"

nail! head! SMACK!

here's my philosophy which I'm teaching our kids: NOTHING good can come from interacting with a cop - NOTHING! the best you can do (& to be fair likely will majority of time) is break even & the alternatives go downhill in a hurry... it's like a reverse lottery ticket - 99.9% of the time (& I think that #'s generous) you get nothing but when you "hit" you get arrested for taking a picture of an ATM or resisting arrest w/o being arrested for an actual crime.

cops are a necessary evil & they're still less bad than the alternative but the needle is moving in the wrong direction...

Directly contacting gov agencies? Horrible idea! (1)

bradley13 (1118935) | about 4 months ago | (#46376059)

Is there a recommended way by FBI or Secret Service where one can go, establish the non-criminal bona-fide of oneself and have an intelligent conversation with someone

I did some minor computer consulting for the Secret Service a long time ago. I was too young at the time to realize what was going on; only in retrospect years later did I realize that there had been zero effort to preserve electronic evidence, share it with the defense, or any of the other niceties one is supposed to expect from the justice system. They knew the guy was guilty, and that was all that mattered.

Given the direction law enforcement at all levels in the US has taken in the past 20 years or so, things today are far worse: increasing militarization at all levels, an even worse mentality of "us vs. them" (where "they" are the entire civilian population). If they decide to target you for something, you are SOL. Getting involved involved with these agencies has huge risks and essentially no advantages. This guy is bloody lucky they didn't charge and prosecute him.

If you've just got to play white knight, at least get a good attorney on board from the very start, and have your attorney with you for all interactions.

Best to never be a person of interest (1)

swb (14022) | about 4 months ago | (#46376227)

....any interest.

It just seems to me that the best policy is to not have your name put on any law enforcement list of any kind unless there is some moral imperative that would compel you to, like being a witness to a crime.

This is kind of sad, because I would think it would be nice to be able to provide meaningful information to law enforcement but there just seems to be too many ways it could turn around and bite you, especially if your helpful information was deemed to be something that could be embarrassing to the agency in question.

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 4 months ago | (#46376529)

I have. I asked a question to the FBI; once. They say they won't tell you if you're doing right or wrong. I state, "you can tell me the law, and then I can make a decision." I then ask, "do you know which law applies to this non sense my client wants me to do."

The FBI are nice folks, they get to deal with some really messed up people.

Re:Directly contacting gov agencies. Good idea? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 4 months ago | (#46377377)

When I was young and naive, I thought the FBI investigated crimes. When I had someone obviously trying to scam me (over state lines) I called the FBI to report it. Of course, I was told "if you haven't lost any money, we will not investigate, just don't send the guy any money". Explaining that he probably did it 1000 times and that I was a living honeypot that could help them catch someone who did take money from others, the FBI hung up on me. But yes, I called the national crime number, and was told to call my local office. The local office didn't care.

Lucky (3, Insightful)

Optimal Cynic (2886377) | about 5 months ago | (#46375463)

He's one lucky bastard to get away with that. A less forgiving agent would have had him in custody for months, "just in case".

Re:Lucky (3, Insightful)

amiga3D (567632) | about 5 months ago | (#46375503)

The Secret Service actually hires intelligent people. If it had been the TSA he'd still be in jail.

Re:The SS hires intelligence people??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46375561)

Is there a reference for your "claim"? Is there something besides your word on this subject? (I apologize for the pun in the title.)

Re:The SS hires intelligence people??? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46376109)

You have to look at the type of crime they handle. The first is attacks on the President and financial fraud. Both of those require intelligent people. The first because the President gets loons threatening him everyday and it takes smarts to figure out which are the real threats. The second does too because it is a lot of forensic accounting. Actual fieldwork would be done by a very specialized unit in the former and the FBI working with the SS for the latter.

Re:The SS hires intelligence people??? (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 4 months ago | (#46376621)

The agency abbreviation is USSS. It doesn't help that everyone knows them as "Secret Service", which is intuitively abbreviated to SS.

Re:The SS hires intelligence people??? (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 4 months ago | (#46377479)

Just to godwin the thread, this is where Hitler came with the 'SS' for his most loyal troops...

Re:Lucky (5, Funny)

russotto (537200) | about 4 months ago | (#46375843)

If it had been the TSA, someone with a vaguely similar name would still be in jail.

Re:Lucky (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 4 months ago | (#46376019)

+1 tuttle or buttle?

Re:Lucky (1)

Mateorabi (108522) | about 4 months ago | (#46376125)

...and here is your receipt for my receipt.

Or (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46377443)

in the morgue with 20 tazer sets of tracks on him.

Re:Lucky (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | about 5 months ago | (#46375603)

I agree. In today's law enforcement climate, I don't think I would be trying that stuff.

Re:Lucky (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46375787)

I wouldn't be at all surprised if he still faced charges for wire taps. THere are laws against imperonating police, who knows if there are laws against impersonating a federal agency? And that was decidedly uncool to record the calls. Mixed feelings on the whole thing but he could definitely have just forwarded the call meta-data.

Re:Lucky (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 4 months ago | (#46375943)

He's one lucky bastard to get away with that.

Don't worry. He's in for a nice surprise the next time he travels abroad and tries to reenter the country. He may as well prelube before hitting customs. Emperors don't like the peons who point out that they have no clothes.

Re:Lucky (1)

C0R1D4N (970153) | about 4 months ago | (#46376075)

I am thinking you never actually read that story.

Re:Lucky (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 4 months ago | (#46377179)

The FBI mostly doesn't hire ass clowns.

I wouldn't try this with the local sheriff's office.

Google lies, says they didn't know about it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46375479)

That's the only aspect of the story to takeaway, we all know systems have flaws and spammers/fuzzers WILL find them.

It's all about how you respond to that, or don't for years.

Re:Google lies, says they didn't know about it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46375609)

Welcome to the world, how was your coma?

Why would they care (1)

Threni (635302) | about 5 months ago | (#46375525)

about Google Maps? Is he going to pull the same stunt with fake listings on other sites/apps, local newspapers, shops, etc? And will he then repeat the process with the local police, hospitals, schools, shops etc etc? Where does it end?

Re:Why would they care (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46375595)

If you were to actually reread what you just wrote, would you realize how dumb you actually sound? You make no sense man

Huh? (0)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 5 months ago | (#46375537)

I don't understand. How is Google supposed to fix every wrong map listing? Does he have an algorithm to spot more of the fake listings? And how is this a security flaw, when there is no way to fix it? Ya, you can post any phone number you want in many different places, and label it as for the FBI, it just illegal to pass yourself off as a government agent. If it were me, I think I just world of arrested him.

But reading the original article, it starts to make sense when he mentions making a decision based on having just watched The Rock. I don't think this guy has all his marbles, and the FBI did not want to arrest a mentally challenged guy and charge him with breaking past their security.

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46375573)

Sigh, I miss when /. wasn't populated by various morons like this guy.

Re:Huh? (1)

jtara (133429) | about 4 months ago | (#46376921)

- "I don't understand. How is Google supposed to fix every wrong map listing?"

By relying primarily on official and/or reliable sources.

- Business licenses
- Property tax rolls
- yellow pages listings

Yea, I get it. Google wants to make things more up-to-date by crowd-sourcing data. But you can't trust the "crowd". They need to make sure that new/changed listings are confirmed by multiple independent reports. And it would't hurt to at least glance at Street View to confirm...

"Here comes the Google van! Quick, put up the "FBI" sign!"

Re:Huh? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 4 months ago | (#46377469)

The problem is they trusted the "crowd" to put up bad information, but not to pull it down. The inconsistent crowd trust is frustrating, and is the source of this man's issue.

Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46375565)

Some day Google will fix Google... maybe.

Re:Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46375921)

They're just googling for the answer

No kidding (1)

Outtascope (972222) | about 5 months ago | (#46375567)

Just try getting something fixed on Google Maps. It's nearly impossible. Sorry, let me amend that: It's nearly impossible if you are or work for/with the agency responsible for the legal addresses and contacts shown on Google Maps. If you are some Joe Blow who wants to randomly change some shit, then it appears to pretty friggin' easy to get something changed.

Google Maps has cost us thousands, perhaps 10's of thousands in costs associated with mail being sent to the wrong location over the last few years (pity the poor guy who works in the office with the address they keep listing). They post addresses that they scrape from the underside of some toilet seat somewhere or pull off of someone's twit-pick of their salami and provolone sandwich, but are absolutely deaf when the easily verifiable owners of the municipalities/businesses/addresses in question can give them authoritative information to use. And try reaching a human being at Google that doesn't work in the sales department, good luck.

I know of one other company in the area who says that their experience with Google is completely different. Of course, the biggest difference is that this company is engaged in 6 and 7 figure contracts with Google on a regular basis. The motto may be Don't be Evil, but they never said anything about not being a pain in the ass.

Re:No kidding (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46375885)

If you are some Joe Blow who wants to randomly change some shit, then it appears to pretty friggin' easy to get something changed.

I'm just a Joe Blow. About two years back I noticed a street name that was incorrect on Google Maps in an area that I frequently drove. I submitted a change online. It took 4 months, but eventually I did hear back from them that they had fixed it. I don't know if they waited to get other reports of the same issue from multiple people or if it just takes them a long time, but it did get fixed. I guess that's what you meant about a Joe Blow being able to get things fixed. Not quickly though.

Re:No kidding (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46375971)

If you are in the UK complain to google about inaccurate data being stored about you and if they don't address it refer it to the ICO.

Re:No kidding (1)

PPH (736903) | about 4 months ago | (#46376083)

I know of one other company in the area who says that their experience with Google is completely different. Of course, the biggest difference is that this company is engaged in 6 and 7 figure contracts with Google on a regular basis.

Reading between the lines: Do more business with Google or they'll make your life miserable with crappy listings. That's a nice little business ya' got there buddy. It'd be a shame if something happened to it......[Heh, heh, heh.]

Re:No kidding (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 4 months ago | (#46376373)

If they're putting you through the the sales department, maybe you could buy some ads if they thrown in "fixing the damn address" as a bonus?

Then, sue them, I guess, for holding you address for ransom....

Fake www site links ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46375599)

Regularly, a couple of times a day now, because of all the corporate buyouts in the last couple of decades, when searching online for who now owns / manufactures / provides replacements for industrial equipment, I am directed to the COMPETITOR for the product I am looking for. Happened twice yesterday with one of the largest manufacturer's of electrical test equipment.
Shirley (look it up) is a LIAR!
Shirley (look it up) is a LIAR!
Which, also, is why I 'post' only anon.

I can't say I really understood (1)

rastos1 (601318) | about 5 months ago | (#46375601)

  • Whoever looks up contact information for an federal office on google map rather then on the federal office web site is a fool.
  • Yes, there as idiots out there.
  • What Bryan Seely did could be qualified as "pretending to be a cop/agent" which is illegal over here.

Re:I can't say I really understood (1)

Soulskill (1459) | about 5 months ago | (#46375663)

Whoever looks up contact information for an federal office on google map rather then on the federal office web site is a fool.

Or just not very tech-savvy -- like the majority of internet users. Maps has taken the place of a phone book for a lot of people. I'll commonly get restaurant phone numbers out of Maps and not think twice about. I probably wouldn't trust it for 'important' information, but then I know well how easy it is to manipulate certain data online.

Think of it from the perspective of somebody who's simply unaware that this information is not vetted very well. If the first 10 numbers you've gotten from Maps have all been right, why would you question the 11th?

Re:I can't say I really understood (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46375809)

Maps has taken the place of a phone book for a lot of people.

Is this seriously a thing? I just don't understand why anyone would do this.
Do you google your bank's telephone number too, and just hope that the first result is the right one?

Re:I can't say I really understood (2)

camperdave (969942) | about 4 months ago | (#46376755)

Is this seriously a thing? I just don't understand why anyone would do this.

Of course it is. For example, you are hankerin' for some Indian food, and you know there's a place over on Maple street, but you don't know the name. So you pull up google maps and zoom in on Maple. There it is - Bombay Palace. You click on the little knife and fork icon to bring up the data, et voila: the phone number. How else would you look something up when you know where it is, but not what it's called?

Re:I can't say I really understood (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about 5 months ago | (#46375755)

Federal offices are merely an example. I know businesses that absolutely refuse to put their mailing address or the location of their offices or their business office telephone number on their website or in local telephone listings, to avoid physical spam or having angry customers show up at their door. And in the business world, just try to find the street address of the ISP data centers near you.

Google Maps has been a reliable way for me to actually _find_ the data center I need to visit, when the staff of the company I'm dealing with don't know the street address, and the IT person is in the data center and their cell phone can't work from inside there.

Re:I can't say I really understood (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 4 months ago | (#46376961)

The addresses are frequently wrong too. Sometimes it's only off by one building. Sometimes it's off by miles. I usually give people coordinates to the entrance.

Of course, Google had to redo maps, removing features I used all the time, like "Drop Coordinates", which would display the coordinates at the point you selected. The distance ruler is gone too. They were beta features, but I used them all the time.

You can still pull the coordinates sometimes. Not always though. Sometimes it'll show in the tag of the location. Otherwise, it's up in the URL, but you have to guess which one it is.

I see it as less about Google being bad... (3, Interesting)

mark-t (151149) | about 5 months ago | (#46375617)

... and more about people who blindly trust whatever they see on the Internet... even if it is from a company that is prominently known, and thus often implicitly trusted by many. If the people utilizing these fake numbers had actually done any serious fact checking of their own, outside of google maps, they would have quickly realized that the fake numbers on google maps were incorrect, at the very least, even if not actually realizing they were deliberately faked.

And IMO, knowingly deceiving people (ie, deliberately misrepresenting your own number as a conduit for contacting somebody else) to try to expose a security flaw is still deception... and IMO, a severe ethical infraction, even if the law allows it when no real harm has been done.

Good ends should not require bad means to achieve. I believe that the means must justify themselves... and if that is just not possible, then... well, you just do the best that you can with whatever it is that you have, and go forward from wherever it is that you are.

Re:I see it as less about Google being bad... (4, Informative)

aviators99 (895782) | about 5 months ago | (#46375721)

True. One of the comments in TFA mentioned that this could be used for bank/credit card phishing. I thought that was an important insight to note. I think you'd get even more people blindly calling their bank based on a number on Google Local, and one could listen in and get all sorts of card numbers, social security numbers, secret passcodes, etc.

Re:I see it as less about Google being bad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46375945)

Google may not necessarily be "bad" but would you not expect them to vet federal law enforcement agency numbers/addresses? That seems high on the list of things to make sure are correct on your map, considering it IS a defacto source of information in the digital age.

Re:I see it as less about Google being bad... (2)

turkeydance (1266624) | about 4 months ago | (#46376073)

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. Theodore Roosevelt

Re:I see it as less about Google being bad... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 months ago | (#46376283)

His goal was to help people by closing the security hole. He contacted Google, but they didn't fix it. What would you have done to get the hole fixed? No one was harmed here, after all.

Re:I see it as less about Google being bad... (2)

mark-t (151149) | about 4 months ago | (#46377071)

His goal was to help people by closing the security hole. He contacted Google, but they didn't fix it. What would you have done to get the hole fixed? No one was harmed here, after all.

What I would have done? Warned as many people as I could that the numbers they see on there may not be accurate. Even if no deliberate deception was involved in them, they could be out of date and incorrect, because there are no safeguards in place to prevent errors.

And saying that nobody was harmed as a means to justify the act is something that The Ethics Scoreboard [ethicsscoreboard.com] refers to as a "Results Obesssion", and an example of a slippery slope argument:

Many argue that if no tangible harm arises from a deception or other unethical act, it cannot be "wrong:" "No harm, no foul." This is truly an insidious fallacy, because it can lead an individual to disregard the ethical nature of an action, and look only to the results of the action. Before too long, one has embraced "the ends justify the means" as an ethical system, otherwise known as "the terrorism standard."

Closely related to The Results Obsession is the "white lie" syndrome, which embodies the theory that small ethical transgressions are not ethical transgressions at all.

Both carry the same trap: the practice of ethics is based upon habit, and one who habitually behaves unethically in small ways is nonetheless building the habit of unethical behavior. Incremental escalations in the unethical nature of the acts, if not inevitable, are certainly common. Thus even an unethical act that causes no direct harm to others can harm the actor, by setting him or her on the slippery slope.

I stand by the points I made previously that people shouldn't just blindly trust everything they see online, and that "nobody was hurt" should not *EVER* be considered a justification for doing something that was still, in the end, an ethical infraction.

The means should not have to be justified by the ends... the means should justify themselves. If he can't make that happen, then it doesn't somehow become his fault for not doing anything further, because the situation was not something within his realm of control in the first place. If it bothered him that much, he could have started up an education program warning people about the dangers of trusting the numbers that are on google maps, and advising them that not only can they be considerably out of date and incorrect, but that there are absolutely no safeguards to prevent people from putting up deliberately false numbers, which may be used by phishing scams. If someone doesn't understand his point without it happening to them first, that's hardly the fault of the person who's trying to educate people... one might as well blame the police programs that teach young women maneuvers in self defense for not actually trying to rape young women who don't come to their classes just so that they will finally understand the importance of learning such skills. I trust you can appreciate the absurdity of this example.

But no... he felt he needed to commit a deliberate deception as part of of an effort of trying to make his point, misrepresenting himself and his phone number to unsuspecting people, and without any authority whatsoever, essentially commit an act that by all rights, IMO, should have been fraud. Nope. Not somebody I'd have any respect for.

Re:I see it as less about Google being bad... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 months ago | (#46377169)

Well, that's an interesting thought anyway.

Re:I see it as less about Google being bad... (1)

ACNiel (604673) | about 4 months ago | (#46377867)

How is this "Interesting". I am looking for a phone number, I don't got to 4 sources. I pick up the closest telephone book and dial what I see there.

"Fact checking" a phone number, wtf.

And then a +4 mod.

Lewis Black wouldn't even scream, he'd be struck silent this is so bad.

The Justice Dept. will review this for charges (1)

Hey_Jude_Jesus (3442653) | about 5 months ago | (#46375819)

He is not out of the woods yet. He should have received permission first or setup a pre-approved trial with a local business as a proof of concept.

Contacting the Authorities is Dangerous (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46375951)

The people who work in law enforcement are predators and the ordinary citizens are their prey. Better to keep your mouth shut and avoid activities that draw attention lest you trigger their hunting instincts. Secrecy is the best remaining weapon of the ordinary citizen against these powers and even that is under continuous attack as Edward Snowden has made the rest of us aware. Don't voluntarily surrender that secrecy by contacting them or identifying yourself to them.

Don't use Google maps - duh! (1)

gabrieltss (64078) | about 4 months ago | (#46376243)

I quit using Google maps a long time ago when they showed the location of an address in the total opposite side of town when I knew darn good and well it wasn't where it said it was. Also showing my address on the WRONG side of the railroad tracks and 1 mile east of where it REALLY was. That is on top of all the spam garbage all over it. I have found MapQuest much more accurate and full of less BS. Google maps is just to "hackable". Anyone can make it show whatever they want - heck just see how easy it was for this guy to do it. Google has just become Micro$oft 2.0.

I wish the guy had gotten charged (2, Insightful)

guevera (2796207) | about 4 months ago | (#46377525)

If he'd gotten arrested and charged at least he would have learned that you don't talk to cops. Ever.

Re:I wish the guy had gotten charged (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46377801)

I'm worried at this post getting a 2 score, for reasons on many levels, even though I actually agree talking with law agents is risky in certain places of the world right now.

Not in jail? (2)

g0es (614709) | about 4 months ago | (#46377615)

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong but it seems that he violate wiretap laws by listening in to the conversation. Neither party knew he was listening in. I would have though for sure they would have charged him for listening which in reality wasn't necessary to prove his point.

How better to do it legally? (1)

mr100percent (57156) | about 4 months ago | (#46378249)

What would have been a better way to deal with this? Send in a warning and watch it be ignored?

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