Google Maps has had quite a bit of the spotlight recently, with various user-submitted pranks making international headlines
under Google’s watchful nose. I myself have been responsible for more than just a few of these pranks.
1. Edward Snowden’s Super Secret Hiding Place
(on the lawn of the White House)
This is easily my favorite. It was the first in this list because it was my first Edward Snowden / White House related Google Maps prank.
Komo news even filmed the process and watched me build it live. Along with renaming the Library of Congress to the Zoolander School For Kids Who Can’t Read Good.
2. Intercepting Calls to the Secret Service & FBI
This was less of a prank and more of a practical / ominous demonstration of what can actually be accomplished when Google Maps has very large holes in their security / verification processes. I was able to build business listings that were identical to the real Secret Service in Washington DC, and the FBI in San Francisco. Within a few minutes, I was able to manipulate reviews, and outrank the originals, and then any calls to my fake business listings would then be routed directly to the real Secret Service & FBI. In the first day there were quite a few calls to these fake listings from unsuspecting local and federal agents that I was able to record and then demonstrate live to the Secret Service. I just gave a TEDx talk where you can hear more about it if you like. This article is from ValleyWag / Gawker by Nitasha Tiku. You can even hear 2 of the recorded calls that were in this original news story.
3. Jack Bauer’s Old Hiding Spot
Who doesn’t like Jack Bauer? Remember how he spent a lot of time at the White House? I thought people would like to see that be more official.
4. Edward’s Snow Den – Snowboarding Shop
(inside the White House) Link
I built this on April 7th or so, to be used in a demonstration for my TEDx talk to show how the flaw that existed for the Secret Service prank still exists over a year later.
Someone ended up finding this and it made news all over the world, and I started to get messages from friends and family, and journalists who know of my previous “shenanigans.”
5. North Korean Concentration Camp Gets Renamed
Kim Jong Un is ridiculous. In a bad way. In a, I have nuclear weapons and don’t take my medication sort of way.
So I found a concentration camp on the map, and renamed it to something more appropriate.
6. The Church of Scientology aka church with no sense of humor. Or Sense.
Some of my friends told me that making fun of the “Church” of scientology is not a wise idea. Well neither was potentially getting sent to Guantanamo Bay for doing my best impression of the NSA and recording the government.
7. Vlad The Impaler
This guys views on LGBT rights are practically in the stone age. Sucks that he is one of the richest people in the world and most people
who stand up to him end up getting shot and left for dead in the street in the middle of day.
8. The Mormon Comedy Club (at the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, UT)
Man, I really love Southpark, specifically Matt Stone and Trey Parker. They are consistently willing to challenge authority and show that not everything should just be accepted without criticism.
They are hysterical, and so I made the Mormon Temple into the Mormon Comedy Club.
9. Westboro Baptist Church
These guys know how to take a joke right?
They never ever react horribly or blow things out of proportion?
Someone send this to them.
10. Google Android Pees on Apple Logo
Of the top 10 in this post, this is the first one that I did not create. But I had to pay respects to the time and effort that went into creating this.
This prank along with numerous others (listed above) were large factors in Google’s decision to suspend the MapMaker product which acts as crowdsourcing tool to all Google Maps users to submit “helpful” content that would then appear on Google Maps. Looks like they didn’t prevent a lot of the “helpful” data from showing up on the map.