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How Google Map Hackers Can Destroy a Business

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the you-aren't-here dept.

Google 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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Wait you mean the HQ for Dice isn't a casino? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426163)

GOOOOOOGLE!

Re: Wait you mean the HQ for Dice isn't a casino? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426201)

Khaaaaaaaaaan!

Re: Wait you mean the HQ for Dice isn't a casino? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47427011)

Spaaaaaaaaaam!

Re: Wait you mean the HQ for Dice isn't a casino? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47427099)

Tetsuuuuuoooo!!!

Re: Wait you mean the HQ for Dice isn't a casino? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47427611)

SPAAAAAAARTA!

Re: Wait you mean the HQ for Dice isn't a casino? (1)

Big_Oh (623570) | about 3 months ago | (#47427903)

AAAAADDRRRIIIIIAAAANNNNNN!!!

Re: Wait you mean the HQ for Dice isn't a casino? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47428167)

STELLLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!

Re: Wait you mean the HQ for Dice isn't a casino? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47428295)

KANEDAAAAAA!!

Re: Wait you mean the HQ for Dice isn't a casino? (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 months ago | (#47428519)

Burma Shave.

Google already has the technology to fix this (5, Insightful)

Ichijo (607641) | about 3 months ago | (#47426207)

Gmail is very effective at filtering spam out of e-mail. Maybe Google should use the same technology to filter spam business listings out of Google Maps.

Re:Google already has the technology to fix this (2)

timeOday (582209) | about 3 months ago | (#47426285)

Spam-filtering is google's core capability... google broke into internet search with the page rank algorithm whose essential purpose is to combat "search engine optimization."

Re:Google already has the technology to fix this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426359)

Spam-filtering is google's core capability... google broke into internet search with the page rank algorithm whose essential purpose is to combat "search engine optimization."

Yeah. They destroy legitimate businesses with their wonderful algorithms...

Re:Google already has the technology to fix this (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426459)

Its acceptable since having google around is a net-gain. Sorry if your livelihood was destroyed, but this site is so damn useful I don't care.

Fix Slashdot (0)

sycodon (149926) | about 3 months ago | (#47426541)

Maybe there is Google technology that Slashdot could use to prevent duplicate stories from appearing within days of each other.

Re:Google already has the technology to fix this (1)

Wootery (1087023) | about 3 months ago | (#47427753)

Have you forgotten than it's the job of a search-engine to resist being influenced by SEO?

To be useful, a search-engine must provide the results which are most useful to the user, not necessarily the results that best benefit any of various businesses.

Don't forget, SEO is, almost by definition, an attempt to beat the system.

It's like saying the press is out to get you because they refuse to give you time on TV.

Re:Google already has the technology to fix this (1)

Safety Cap (253500) | about 3 months ago | (#47428645)

Yeah. They destroy legitimate businesses with their wonderful algorithms...

You went long on Demand Media [businessinsider.com] stock, didn't you?

That butthurt's gotta burn!

Re:Google already has the technology to fix this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426323)

Gmail is very effective at filtering spam out of e-mail. Maybe Google should use the same technology to filter spam business listings out of Google Maps.

I don't know what Gmail you've been using, but I get nonstop granny porn emails. Yeah, great filters...

Re:Google already has the technology to fix this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426445)

Strangely, Gmail is the only email service I've ever used (aside from my own personal server) that has never received spam messages, ever. Exchange servers on the other hand... I've never even heard of one that doesn't filter at least twice, and users still get spam mail.

Re: Google already has the technology to fix this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426979)

Post your email, I will guarantee spam shows up.

Re: Google already has the technology to fix this (2)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47427021)

anonymous.coward@slashdot.org

Re:Google already has the technology to fix this (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426615)

I don't know what Gmail you've been using, but I get nonstop granny porn emails. Yeah, great filters...

Are you sure that it is spam? My guess is that based on your web browsing habbits Google decided that you would really like to receive those emails...

Re:Google already has the technology to fix this (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 3 months ago | (#47428283)

My spam FOLDER in Gmail has about 1000 items in it on any given day.

My inbox has zero.

Every once in a while I get a series of emails that fool Gmail's filters, and after reporting them for a while (like thousands of other users do), they'll disappear. Those "once in a whiles" get fewer and farther between.

I lose a few real emails into the spam filter as well - but mostly because I moved to contracting, and I get genuine contacts from foreign recruiters - and they're barely distinguishable from spam by humans. I just have to know to take a peek into my spam box after submitting applications.

Re:Google already has the technology to fix this (4, Interesting)

noldrin (635339) | about 3 months ago | (#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+

less accurate than wikipedia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426223)

and less coverage for inaccuracies

why the word needs openstreetmap (5, Insightful)

richlv (778496) | about 3 months ago | (#47426239)

again and again people fail to understand that they are the ones giving this power to a single company.
who controls the map ?
or, why the world needs openstreetmap :)
http://blog.emacsen.net/blog/2014/01/04/why-the-world-needs-openstreetmap/ [emacsen.net]

of course, no dataset is immune from vandalism/poisoning... but an open one is both available for auditing/monitoring, and also improvable by many more, not just business owners.

Re:why the word needs openstreetmap (1)

scottbomb (1290580) | about 3 months ago | (#47426309)

It would be nice if Google had some competetition here. I went to openstreetmap.org and entered my address but it said nothing found. That's too bad.

Re:why the word needs openstreetmap (2)

richlv (778496) | about 3 months ago | (#47426545)

agreed - it would be really great if you could add it :)
or, if you don't feel that you could figure out how to do it, you can also add a note for somebody else to potentially review : http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Notes [openstreetmap.org]

Wikipedianism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426607)

The only reason people use Google Maps, or other paid map services for that matter, is for convenience

If you have to look up and add every address you want to use it's not going to far as a tool, not to mention the whole problem Google Maps has now is community abuse!

Re:why the word needs openstreetmap (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47427035)

Maybe openstreetmap has data from the future and knows you'll be homeless one day.

Re: why the word needs openstreetmap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47428501)

That explains why I showed up at yo-mommas house

Re:why the word needs openstreetmap (2)

c00rdb (945666) | about 3 months ago | (#47426495)

The entire point of this is that crowd-sourcing is 'hacking' and allows competitors to destroy a business. How would the exact same thing prevent the problem?

Re:why the word needs openstreetmap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47428189)

Because Open Source (>.)!!!!

Re:why the word needs openstreetmap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426523)

again and again people fail to understand that they are the ones giving this power to a single company.
who controls the map ?
or, why the world needs openstreetmap :)
http://blog.emacsen.net/blog/2014/01/04/why-the-world-needs-openstreetmap/ [emacsen.net]

of course, no dataset is immune from vandalism/poisoning... but an open one is both available for auditing/monitoring, and also improvable by many more, not just business owners.

But isn't this exactly the problem mentioned in the article? That Google's data set is getting poisoned? How would OSM combat a malicious editor?

Re:why the word needs openstreetmap (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about 3 months ago | (#47426629)

How would OSM combat a malicious editor?

Molotov cocktails and machetes!

Re:why the word needs openstreetmap (4, Interesting)

Albanach (527650) | about 3 months ago | (#47426543)

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?

Re:why the word needs openstreetmap (3, Informative)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about 3 months ago | (#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.

Re:why the word needs openstreetmap (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 3 months ago | (#47427545)

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.

The grandparent was talking about the One Book To Rule Them All - Ma Bell's, everyone with a phone line in a given area got one on their doorstep for free and it was the most widely used one. If you had a business line from Ma Bell, you got a one line entry (business name and phone number) in the standard type face, size, and color in one category for free. Extra categories, larger print, display ads, all these cost extra. (In areas with multiple books (a city and a county book for example), being in more than one cost extra as well.)
 

The quicker you can catch the nefarious mischief the quicker you can curtail any damage.

The point of TFA is that a business owner shouldn't have to spend time and money policing multiple sites in order to protect himself from trolls and malicious mischief. Especially because so many of them manipulate the information presented so that bad reviews predominate - which they then charge the business to clear up.
 

It's word of mouth in the internet age which is both good and bad.

From a user's perspective - it's pretty much nothing but bad. Between the tendency of people to complain more than they congratulate, deliberate manipulation by website operators, and various forms of trolling and mischief... the 'net is virtually completely unreliable.

Re:why the word needs openstreetmap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426729)

Too big to fail, too easy to falsify. Maybe 0.1% of Americans have read this Wired piece or considered this type of fraud. How many would-be customers of Serbian Crown now know that the restaurant was destroyed by information warfare (assuming that is the case)?

Re:why the word needs openstreetmap (2)

ttsai (135075) | about 3 months ago | (#47426869)

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?

The problem with "hacking" is the openness and crowd sourcing aspect of Google Maps. Wikipedia has the same problem, and the answer was to decrease the openness for editing. Maybe Google will have to adopt a similar strategic decrease in openness for certain parts of Maps.

Will people move to an alternative if Google Maps becomes unreliable? Well, maybe but probably not. If I'm misdirected to a competitor but I'm still able to complete my transaction, then I probably don't care or maybe I don't even realize the misdirection. If a small percentage of the links I click on fail, but most links continue to work and the rest of Maps functionality remains intact, then I won't switch. The losers are not the browser users but the businesses trying to get free advertising. I imagine Google will take care of paid advertising businesses, but they probably don't care as much for the "freeloaders", i.e., Google wants the freeloaders to populate their database, but they don't really care if they benefit or are hurt.

Re:why the word needs openstreetmap (1)

jemmyw (624065) | about 3 months ago | (#47427817)

Will people move to an alternative if Google Maps becomes unreliable?

For recommendations and reviews I've always found google unreliable, so I've been using Yelp. It probably suffers the same problems, but it seems a bit more reliable.

Re:why the word needs openstreetmap (2)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47427115)

People won't move to Bing, because Bing is a stupid name.

See also: Ned Ryerson.

Re:why the word needs openstreetmap (1)

Daniel Hoffmann (2902427) | about 3 months ago | (#47427119)

Tell them to make a decent javascript api, OpenLayers is painful to work with.

Re:why the word needs openstreetmap (3, Informative)

richlv (778496) | about 3 months ago | (#47428277)

http://leafletjs.com/ [leafletjs.com] ?

Re:why the word needs openstreetmap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47428727)

The problem is that OpenStreetMap's APIs simply... suck. Most of the useful functionality you would expect from a maps API - many of the features Google gives you with their core service - is not present in OpenStreetMap, at least not natively. The last time I looked into using OpenStreetMap, I abandoned it the moment that reverse geocoding (give a latitude and longitude, return address information) as well as a couple of other useful features I can't recall right now turned out to either not be available, or only available through complicated third-party plugins.

People use what is easy and the most useful. OpenStreetMap's lack of core features and its subsequent dependency on third-party plugins is just too much of a hassle for most developers. What can take 2 days to implement with Google Maps can take a week or more to piece together with OpenStreetMap.

Own fault (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426259)

When they treat their customer's data like shit they should not wonder that they get also treated like shit. The businesses should watch out for themselves, if it is so important to them. Google should ease the process of "owning" a business as much as possible.

Wikipedia survives it (1)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | about 3 months ago | (#47426277)

If a sufficiently large population of interested people can be induced to correct the map it shouldn't be an insurmountable problem. Wikipedia suffers and reverts many thousands of bits of misinformation daily. Not to say it's perfect but it's good enough.

Re:Wikipedia survives it (2, Interesting)

preaction (1526109) | about 3 months ago | (#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.

Re:Wikipedia survives it (1)

drainbramage (588291) | about 3 months ago | (#47426365)

Good enough for you is an unfortunate place to stop.

Re:Wikipedia survives it (2)

AaronLS (1804210) | about 3 months ago | (#47426371)

I think the challenge is identifying bad edits. Once you identify a bad edit, you can bulk undo everything from that source. With google maps, a phone number change might not be apparently a bad edit until you call it, and even then if it was setup with the sole purpose of misrepresenting a business, then it will be difficult to verify. With wikipedia, identifying a bad edit is usually simple as "hey this link goes to this third party place it shouldn't" or it's clear bias or vandalism.

Re:Wikipedia survives it (3, Insightful)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 3 months ago | (#47427567)

With google maps, a phone number change might not be apparently a bad edit until you call it, and even then if it was setup with the sole purpose of misrepresenting a business, then it will be difficult to verify.

Even worse, if the information is a website to reserve a room at a hotel, the only people who will know that the link that takes you to Booking.com or some other reseller is bogus is the hotel itself. Did I just get sent to booking.com when I clicked on "reserve a room" because this hotel wants me to go through booking.com, or did some nefarious bad guy point me to his website so he can scam a commission?

Re:Wikipedia survives it (1)

Shoten (260439) | about 3 months ago | (#47427621)

If a sufficiently large population of interested people can be induced to correct the map it shouldn't be an insurmountable problem. Wikipedia suffers and reverts many thousands of bits of misinformation daily. Not to say it's perfect but it's good enough.

Issue #1: Wikipedia is actually in crisis at the moment, over this very issue. So...hm. We'll see if they actually do survive it.

Issue #2: With Google Maps, there's the larger population that has a very small incentive to edit everything, and although they have a greater incentive to offset information that's false...those incidences are like needles in a haystack, and it's very very hard to find out which ones they are. There will be enormous duplication of effort as well, since the best-patronized businesses will invariably be monitored by many people while others will go ignored due to smaller constituent populations or populations that tend to be less tech-savvy. Conversely, the attacker needs to do very little to do their damage, and requires a far lower degree of vigilance to be successful at it. So, the "sufficiently large population" of "interested people" is extremely hard to accomplish, and even harder to use efficiently.

Can't figure out their plan here (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#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.

Re:Can't figure out their plan here (1)

Macrat (638047) | about 3 months ago | (#47426537)

Oh, and about 95% of my customers use Google Maps instead of the phone book.

What's a "phone book"?

Re:Can't figure out their plan here (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426587)

That annoying wedge of soggy paper that shows up on your doorstep once a year.

Re:Can't figure out their plan here (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 3 months ago | (#47427109)

It's a big fat book full of useless entries with names and places you'll never deal with. They still occasionally drop them off at my front door where I obligingly use the pages for starting camp fires and to level my wonky kitchen table.

Re:Can't figure out their plan here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47428027)

If you have kids it what you use instead of a booster seat.

If you don't have kids (most likely as this is slashdot) it is the door stop that you get once a year that is made of a newspaper like material and has many thousands of names and numbers of business in it. also an archaic search function (its only alphabetical)

Re:Can't figure out their plan here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426603)

Sue Google. Class action against Google seems like the only answer here. They either

1. allow verified listings, or
2. stop scraping crap from the internet and mixing it with real data.

Can't figure out their plan here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426661)

I am sure their ultimate plan is to become the new yellow pages. Give basic listings for free, charge $30 a month for user controlled listings. Once yellow pages were regional, but google maps will be global. Just like google is the defacto search engine, they also want to become the defacto yellow pages.

ALL those businesses willing to pay a small fee to be listed. Probably hundreds of billions per year in fees alone, not including advertising. It will become the gotta pay it tax for a business to remain visible. Wish I would have bought some google stock a few years ago...

Re:Can't figure out their plan here (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47427083)

And I wish I started mining bitcoins a few years ago...

Speaking of which, please click on the links in my sig. Share and enjoy!

Re:Can't figure out their plan here (3, Informative)

su5so10 (2542686) | about 3 months ago | (#47426771)

Are you using "Google My Business" (http://www.google.com/business/)? It should stop your listings from being hijacked.

Re:Can't figure out their plan here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47427043)

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

So your business is to some extent dependent on Google? And you have allowed that to happen in the absence of any business deal or contract with this third party? That sounds a risky way to run a business.

Re:Can't figure out their plan here (1)

TechHSV (864317) | about 3 months ago | (#47427135)

I'm going out on a limb and will be assuming he cannot tell his customers which service to use to find his location. Even if he had TV/radio commercials giving directions most people would not pay attention and use some type of mapping service.. He could of course hire a sky writer to draw a big arrow over his place of business daily, but that seems a bit expensive.

Re:Can't figure out their plan here (1)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about 3 months ago | (#47428131)

I'm just glad my business is fairly small and advertises through word of mouth from current clients, rather than depending on new foot traffic or something. I can't imagine dealing with the headache you're talking about after all the other small business headaches are dealt with.

Re:Can't figure out their plan here (1)

SWroclawski (95770) | about 3 months ago | (#47428321)

OpenStreetMap has a series of mechanisms to combat malicious editors. Mostly they get found out quickly by local mappers and problem edits are reverted. Sometimes it takes a while, but it happens. Also, with lots of editors, sometimes the problems just get fixed as data is changed.

Some power users monitor the map closely, and OSM does have a (very small) number of moderators who can block malicious users.

OSM is also working on actively improving communication about edits, so problem users can be identified more quickly and efficiently.

Source: I'm the author of that blog post, I'm also one of the aforementioned moderators, and I'm also working on the improved communication (it's OSM's GSoC project this year).

you need to claim your business (1)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | about 3 months ago | (#47428691)

Make a google account. Claim the business. go through the verification process.

https://support.google.com/pla... [google.com]

And then after that they only take updates from you unless someone else can succeed at the verification process which should be a bit hard without pilfering your mail.

And they think we'll trust them to drive us around (2)

scottbomb (1290580) | about 3 months ago | (#47426281)

Something similar happened to me recently. Google Maps led me to a business that was no longer there (if it ever was). A week or so later, I asked it about a Wells Fargo branch. It sent me to one about a mile away. Later on, I realized there was one just a block down the street from where I made the inquiry. Doh!

Re:And they think we'll trust them to drive us aro (1)

magarity (164372) | about 3 months ago | (#47427649)

"A week or so later, I asked it about a Wells Fargo branch. It sent me to one about a mile away"

This is why you look on Wells Fargo's website for their location addresses and then put the closest one's street address into google's map for navigation.

Re:And they think we'll trust them to drive us aro (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47428747)

This is why you look on Wells Fargo's website for their location addresses and then put the closest one's street address into google's map for navigation.

Google's location-address information is not always accurate. I have put many addresses in only to find the actual business and/or home a few blocks away.

Fucking god damn hell .... what a summary .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426313)

The editors... really enjoy .... not doing fucking shit ....

Crowd Sourcing ? (1)

nukenerd (172703) | about 3 months ago | (#47426319)

Tragedy of the commons

Re:Crowd Sourcing ? (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | about 3 months ago | (#47426819)

Not quite.. this is not everyone polluting. I think the meme you are looking for is "First world problems..."

This article taught me what to look for (4, Interesting)

SpzToid (869795) | about 3 months ago | (#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.

Re:This article taught me what to look for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47427349)

"like DNS"

Yeah, sure. localstorage, indexDB, etc. caches are one thing. A:B testing is quite another.

Serbian Crown (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about 3 months ago | (#47426369)

They give some examples of businesses that claim to be having problems because of incorrect data Google Maps. But then one of those examples just has abysmal reviews [yelp.com] in general (which, to their credit, they note in the article).

Serbian Crown (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426451)

Yelp basically extorts businesses by hiding favorable reviews unless the business pays up.

Re:Serbian Crown (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about 3 months ago | (#47426475)

If you look at the reviews, they actually have several 4- and 5-star ones, but they look more canned.

Re:Serbian Crown (1)

ShaunC (203807) | about 3 months ago | (#47428743)

But then one of those examples just has abysmal reviews [yelp.com]

Last I heard, a big part of Yelp's business model was to cold-call your business offering to hide those abysmal reviews for a small extortion^Wservice fee. I guess this company didn't play ball. It doesn't surprise me that a restaurant which has been hijacked on Google Maps is also suffering from a bunch of negative reviews on Yelp, someone is clearly targeting the business.

Even less "hacking" than the usual unlocked door (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426373)

It's not even "obscure" or "hidden" or really protected in any way at all. You go to google maps, you say "report an error" and you fill whatever the fuck you want in. You drag the company marker out to the middle of the lake.

This isn't even a webservice that gives you someone else's phone information if you punch in your number+1, it's working exactly as intended. "Hacking" indeed.

Re:Even less "hacking" than the usual unlocked doo (1)

SpzToid (869795) | about 3 months ago | (#47426431)

You assume every small business owner is technology savvy enough to monitor Google Maps, along with every similar web service for such malicious acts, on a regular basis. Seriously, you must be able to see you will always have a given percentage of businesses that fail to do such a task, and do it well.

Re: Even less "hacking" than the usual unlocked do (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426511)

I'm surprised businesses don't monitor the Google maps listing. I tried calling a chain restaurant one time and it went to the fax number. Kind of a big deal. I use Google maps over the yellow pages or any other means of looking up a number.

Saw this the other day on SN (4, Interesting)

LoRdTAW (99712) | about 3 months ago | (#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.

Re:Saw this the other day on SN (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 3 months ago | (#47427327)

This was discussed already and the general conclusion was the restaurant had very poor service

Or a competitor/ex-business partner/ex-girlfriend/etc who occasionally posts bad reviews. It only takes one.

Re:Saw this the other day on SN (2)

laura20 (21566) | about 3 months ago | (#47427523)

40 year old restaurants don't tank because of a Google listing; they tank because they've gone to shit, and from the reviews, that's exactly what happened. If you look back at the TripAdvisor history, they were doing Groupon and the like, which is in the case of an established restaurant is a sign of a restaurant that was already on the downswing. And a lot of those reviews were the same thing: poor quality food and poor service. If you've been around for 40 years, you should have a steady clientele that won't be looking for reviews in Google. You start pushing coupons when you've burned that established clientele by decreasing quality of experience.

I've been to restaurants like that; 40 years ago they were what was considered quality, but neither the menu nor the physical plant has been updated. The staff in the kitchen has gotten cheaper and cheaper, the skills are still 1970s level, etc. It's like eating in a ghost, and people don't come back.

Re:Saw this the other day on SN (0)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 3 months ago | (#47428173)

Plus I don't think Google information can kill a place in just a few weeks.

It wasn't "just a few weeks", it was nearly a year per TFA.
 

This was discussed already and the general conclusion was the restaurant had very poor service.

Discussed by who? Where? And what was the authority of the group who held the discussion to reach such a decision? Or are you seriously asking me to decide based on your links one of which is the one that's being blamed in the first place? Not to mention, if you check the dates of the bad reviews on Yelp and Trip Advisor you find many of them are from the period when the staff had been cut in response to the business drop off. (Further proof, if needed, that whoever "discussed" this as you claim is clueless.)
 

And these aren't recent complaints, they go back to 2010.

And there are good reviews in the same period, but you fail to mention those. Not to mention you fail to adress how complaints in 2010 can lead to a sudden and massive drop off years later. And you fail to address the fact that his information *was* changed.

Etc... etc...

Happened to me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426687)

Luckily my business isn't one that takes walk-up traffic, but I enjoyed the extra phone calls I'd get. I've recently seen a drop in people calling, but never considered Google Maps to be why. I read this article and found that someone removed my maps listing. As a small one-man company, if this was my ONLY employment, I could have been screwed. Fortunately its a side-business and my calendar was full, regardless.

Easy solution (1)

Valejo (689967) | about 3 months ago | (#47426703)

Obviously they should have been buying AdWords ads.

Revenge! (2)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 3 months ago | (#47426755)

So if enough people listed Brin or Page's home address as something icky.. like a support group for pedo's, or a west coast branch of the Westboro Baptist Church, Google would do nothing to correct the inaccurate information? :)

A few 'User's choice" campaigns have found first hand the flaw in this type of contest in the 4chan/anon era, maybe one day Google Maps will be abused in similar fashion.

Re:Revenge! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47427363)

So if enough people listed Brin or Page's home address as something icky.. like a support group for pedo's,

Mate, the fuckers named themselves Google. Like, "googly eyes" they're looking at everyone with. You don't get more creepy than these sick CIA sponcered fucks.

those damn locksmiths (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#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.

Re:those damn locksmiths (2)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47427051)

Maybe a lot of locksmiths didn't start out as locksmiths.

Bleh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426941)

Google maps also won't change or take down a listing if it closes or moves, until a new tenant moves into the old address. Even for paying business subscribers. Very annoying

"hackers"?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426959)

You keep using this word. I don't think it means what you think it means.

Like everything done on the cheap! (1)

Marlin Schwanke (3574769) | about 3 months ago | (#47427031)

Google could hire a couple of hundred more people, yes live human beings, perhaps even in the country they are tasked to curate and then, well they could review proposed changes, you know curate? Google is a de facto authority on a variety of types of information. Google makes a lot of money off of that standing. THEY NEED TO STEP UP HERE. They risk losing that standing.

SEO (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47427045)

Every time I see that term, I cringe. I've never heard anything 100% good from any of those guys, there's always some trickery or grey-area ethics involved.

Business search sadly broken (1)

istartedi (132515) | about 3 months ago | (#47427077)

Business search is sadly broken in many ways. Whenever I google for a service that I actually need, there are dozens upon dozens of sites at the top of the results. No doubt they're all SEO'd there. When you follow the links, what do you get? A boiler-plate script along the lines of $foo is an experienced contractor in $bar who serves the $locality area. In fact, he does nothing of the sort if he even exists.

The surveillatizing industry does a fantastic job of tracking us and shoving shit-ads at us for stuff we don't want.

And yet, when I'm searching for a service that I ACTUALLY WANT TO PAY FOR, I have to deal with all this dreck.

I figure it must be click-bait, since I've clicked on it because it's misleading. I have a couple ad-blocking methods running concurrently, so I almost never see 3rd party ads there; but I can't imagine what other motive there would be to provide absolutely useless boilerplate like that.

BTW, I guess you could extend this out even further to say that many things other than searching for a business are broken by click-baiters.

Take any question, really. "Who won the 1950 World Series". And although I haven't tested this yet, I'm willing to wager somebody has a site out there that will tell you something like, "The 1950 World Series is available on eBay. Click here to learn more about 1950 World Series products, etc..."

The AI that does this shit is usually pretty smart, but sometimes you get gems like, "The best cleaning products for your World Series".

Re:Business search sadly broken (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about 3 months ago | (#47427947)

My favorite, from Yelp, was a search for bike shops in my area had a paid advertisement for a wedding shop.

"I love my bike, but I'm not going to marry it..."

Re:Business search sadly broken (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | about 3 months ago | (#47428905)

"buy plutonium and plutonium products on ebay!"

Doing This Right Now in Fact (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47427123)

I work for a large-ish online listing company, and we are getting killed by spammers as well who both create massive numbers of listings AND then spam the review section with glowing reviews. Locksmiths are the worst, plumbers are pretty bad too (along with carpet cleaners, garage door openers, etc.). Sadly the fact that there is so much money to be made at this means there will always be an incentive for someone to beat you. The biggest problem though is that you want user data, just good data, so you still have to allow end users to claim and edit listings, and post reviews. Any thing you do to slow down spammers will slow down legit users as well. The key is to find the right balance...

Self-reported data will never work. (1)

Animats (122034) | about 3 months ago | (#47427143)

See my 2010 paper "'Places' spam - the new front in the spam wars." [sitetruth.com] As I wrote back then, "The two phases of spamming Google Places are the insertion of fake business locations and the creation of fake reviews. Both are embarrassingly easy." That hasn't changed.

Google doesn't fix this 4-year-old problem because Google makes money from bad search results. If search results take you directly to the business selling whatever it is you want, Google makes no money. If you're detoured through some Demand Media content farm, Google makes ad revenue. If you get fed up with being sent to ad-choked sites and click on a Google ad, Google makes money. Organic search that sucks is a fundamental part of Google's business model.

Technically, it's straightforward to fix this. [sitetrutth.com] Business data has to be checked against sources businesses can't easily manipulate, such as business credit rating companies. A business that reports fake store locations to Dun & Bradstreet or Experian will soon have a very low credit rating.

Bing or Yahoo could beat Google at search quality. They have the same spam problem, but it doesn't make them money. That's because Google has most of the third-party advertising market. Web spam on Bing drives traffic mostly to sites with Google ads, not Bing ads.

The real search engines are Google, Bing, Baidu (China) and Yandex (Russia). Everybody else, including Yahoo, is a reseller. Yandex has been doing some interesting stuff lately with linkless search ranking, and Baidu just opened a Silicon Valley office.

Yahoo's Marissa Mayer announced last January that Yahoo was getting back into search. (They've been reselling Bing since 2009.) That appears to have been a bluff to get a better deal from Microsoft. There's no indication of Yahoo actually building a search engine. No relevant job ads, no data center buildout, no increased crawling by Yahoo bots, no high-profile hires, no buzz in Silicon Valley.

Bing ought to be doing better than it is, but they're reported to have management problems. Every year, there's new top management at Bing, and it doesn't help.

Welcome to Reality (1)

Sir Holo (531007) | about 3 months ago | (#47428557)

Well, when your business model is to use donated, individual efforts to build a database —a database that you then use to make money via advertising with no contributor compensation. . .

Well, don't be surprised when some "hired gun" pretends to be one of us altruistic citizens contributing to your database. And they make stuff up.

SEO guys. Google Map spammers. The list goes on forever.

These "crowd-sourced" businesses, making money off of the altruism of anonymous individuals, have it coming to them. There is no free ride.
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