As of yesterday, Google has disabled its “Mapmaker” feature. According to SearchEngineLand, who spoke to Google insiders, the reason is to attempt to curb “pranks” such as my hilarious and moderately known classics: Edward’s Snow Den in the White House, and several from February of 2014 detailed on Blumenthals blog including a different Snowden related prank on the White House lawn.
Of course, I did not make these “pranks” because I love a good joke. Rather, I have gone to great lengths to attempt to expose the multi-billion dollar fraud that spammers and scammers use Google Maps to perpetrate on the American public. In short: fake business listings dominate the Google landscape. If you hire one of these businesses and you get cheated, you have no recourse. If you hire one of these businesses and you don’t get cheated, the government does; these fake businesses do not pay taxes. The problem is so massive that I’m writing a book in the hopes of exposing the fraud perpetrated not just through Google, but through the other search engines as well.
That’s why this development from Google is such a big deal, and why it could lead to even more monumental progress in the battle of good versus evil. I heartily commend Google for disabling the feature to reevaluate its practices, and sincerely thank them for it.
Of course, Google has disabled this feature once before. Back in 2014, all I had to do was use Google Maps to wiretap the Secret Service, then confess to what I did, then persuade the Secret Service I wasn’t crazy, then watch the Secret Service ask Google to fix the problem. And it worked; Google shut down the service for six weeks. Then it re-enabled it, with no visible improvements whatsoever.
This time, I’m really hoping that they take better advantage of their hiatus.
But what do I want them to do specifically? I’m glad you asked, me. In short:
- Require businesses to disclose a physical address, either to Google privately or publicly, rather than permit the use of so-called “Postal Box” stores, which make fraudulent listings far easier.
- Discontinue its telephone verification system for businesses, in favor of cross-referencing the prospective listing against business license records or reasonably equivalent information, to effectively prevent fraudulent businesses from obtaining Google listings.
- Improve reporting tools to provide an efficient and transparent means for fraudulent businesses identified by the public to be removed by Google.
- Limit the abuse permitted through crowdsourcing by limiting the number of edits that company profiles are allowed to make without additional scrutiny being applied.
Some of these changes wouldn’t cost them anything; others might cost them a lot. But the cost of not making these changes is simply too high.
To paraphrase Jerry Maguire, help me help Google help you. Sign the ONLINE PETITION, asking Google to make these changes before they reinstate Mapmaker. Post it around Ye Olde Internete, and let’s get as many signatures on this petition as possible before Google decides what to do.
If Google follows these suggestions, I will fly to their headquarters at my own expense to thank them in person. I might not even get kicked out of their lobby by security. If they don’t….well, there’s always the book.