Urinating Robot Freezes Google Maps Edits


Google has suspended a tool that let users edit a version of Google Maps, following a series of high-profile prank edits. The company says it can’t keep up with the number of manual reviews needed.

Map Maker has been running since 2008 and is effectively a separate, wiki-like version of the main map service. The idea is that users can add or correct detail such as missing roads or new buildings, particularly in more remote areas.

In its original form, edits took effect immediately, but were only viewable to those users who specifically chose to look at Map Maker. Google then reviewed the changes at a more considered pace and used them to update the main Google Maps when it was confident the details were accurate.

Like any user-editable service, pranks were always a possibility, but in the past few months, it seems they’ve been on the rise. The most notable came on the map of the Pakistan city of Rawalpindi where a particularly creative vandal added green parkland that just so happened to be in the shape of the Android logo’s robot urinating on what appeared to be the Apple logo.

Google had decided it would switch off edits from automatically taking effect and would instead manually review them until it found a more effective automated filter to catch such pranks. However, it’s now concluded it doesn’t have the resources to keep up and:

“We believe that it is more fair to only say that if we do not have the capacity to review edits at roughly the rate they come in, we have to take a pause. ”

It’s therefore decided to suspend the editing feature until it has got an effective editing solution in place

Google has also clarified that another apparent act of vandalism was not a result of the Map Maker editing tool. It says the surprise appearance of “Edwards Snow Den” right in the middle of the White House was instead a case of somebody finding a way to create a bogus entry in Google’s local business directory, which led to the listing appearing on the map automatically.