The FOAM Protocol is needed more than ever.
The WSJ continues a great trend of geospatial articles:
Google’s ubiquitous internet platform shapes what’s real and what isn’t for more than two billion monthly users. Yet Google Maps, triggered by such Google queries is overrun with millions of false business addresses and fake names, according to advertisers, search experts and current and former Google employees.
The repairman had hijacked the name of a legitimate business on Google Maps and listed his own phone number. He returned to Ms. Carter’s home again and again, hounding her for payment on a repair so shoddy it had to be redone.
> Three years later, Google still can’t seem to stop the proliferation of fictional business listings and aggressive con artists on its search engine. The scams are profitable for nearly everyone involved, Google included. Consumers and legitimate businesses end up the losers.
> Yet despite its powerful algorithms and first-rate software engineers, the company struggles to protect against chronic deceit on Google Maps.
Often, Google Maps yields mirages, visible in local business searches of U.S. cities, including Mountain View, Calif., Google’s hometown. Of a dozen addresses for personal-injury attorneys on Google Maps during a recent search, only one office was real. A Viennese patisserie was among the businesses at addresses purported to house lawyers. The fakes vanished after inquiries to Google from The Wall Street Journal.
Hundreds of thousands of false listings sprout on Google Maps each month, according to expert
> Google Maps director Ethan Russell said in a written statement, “There is no single source of truth for all businesses in all categories.”
> Google’s failure to eliminate phony listings puts legitimate businesses at the risk of threats and blackmail by competitors or con artists.
Google said it has long battled phantom business listings.
For the past decade, the company has hosted around a dozen volunteers each fall who patrol its pages for forgeries. This digital version of a Neighborhood Watch group, which includes advertising specialists trained by Google, stays at a motel near the corporate campus, dining on egg whites, from cage-free chickens, and other free offerings at company cafeterias.
Mr. Blumenthal, the New York search consultant, has joined several of the annual visits, which are billed as educational trips. He learned, he said, that Google “has obviously chosen not to solve the problem.” He skipped last year’s junket.
> Google is in “an arms race with an extremely motivated group of scammers who are constantly on the lookout to beat the defenses we build,” Mr. Russell, the Google Maps director, said in his statement.
> One prolific listings merchant is Mark Luckenbaugh. From a basement smelling of cigarette smoke in Hanover, Pa., he runs a business that can place as many as 3,800 fake Google Maps listings a day.