From The Ethics Alarms “Be Afraid…Be Very Afraid” Files: Fake Maps From Google

Nah, Google doesn’t abuse its power 0r manipulate information for a political agenda! Why would anyone suggest such a thing?

Chuck Schumer suggested that the Senate Office Building, currently named after the late Senator Richard Russell, 1897-1971, a Georgia Democrat who served in the Senate for almost 40 years, be re-named in honor of the late John McCain.

It’s a good suggestion. Russell was an adamant white supremacist, and opposed, unapologetically, civil rights measures his whole career. I’ve been rather surprised that the building’s name wasn’t changed long before, when Democrats controlled the Senate. Why didn’t the Democrats try to get Russell replaced by Edward Kennedy’s name, for example?

Go ahead, guess why.

But it’s not Google’s role to lobby for the change, or worse, to make it unilaterally, as it did today on Google Maps. This was especially bad—but helpful!– timing for the giant tech company, as it is under fire for political bias by the President, who tweeted that the search engine was “rigged,” and Congress, and Google’s CEO just refused to be questioned on the Hill.  These companies, like Facebook, Amazon and Twitter,  are arrogant beyond all measure, drunk with their growing power, and ethically inert. You can regard this episode as just a funny glitch if you like.

I think it’s an inadvertent warning.

24 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Science & Technology, The Internet

24 responses to “From The Ethics Alarms “Be Afraid…Be Very Afraid” Files: Fake Maps From Google

  1. I mean, it was a user suggested change, and those usually fly through without much intervention. That’s how these maps get so detailed – thousands of users edit them. Google’s removed the change and it *should* be reverted by now.

    • Sounds like lame excuse to me. So I can “suggest” that the Capitol be called “Das Kapital and the White House Be renamed The Fright House” and it will just fly right through? I doubt that.

      • I mean, it’s all hilarious watching the Progressives suddenly idolize McCain, given their general attitude towards him from about halfway through Bush’s presidency until right up until his feud with Trump manifested.

        Don’t worry Progressives, we see through you.

      • anonymous coward

        It is an excuse, yes. I don’t think that makes it wrong

        Something like that is an innocuous change that the average googler may know nothing about. They maybe even saw a news blurb about some Mccain building and thought this was confirmation of it.

        Das frighthouse well i doubt itd sneak by as easily . I would approve it but it’s probably a good thing that i don’t work on the gmaps team.

        • With great power comes great responsibility. The people who own and operate the big tech companies are not responsible enough, diligent enough, smart enough or ethical enough to control the power they have. This shows that we are foolish to trust them to the degree we do.

        • Rusty Rebar

          “Something like that is an innocuous change that the average googler may know nothing about. ”

          It may seem that way at first glance, but look at it this way. Lets say that I hear an argument that it is not named “McCain Office Building”, then I go onto Google maps to look, and sure enough that is the name there. Now I think the source that told me that was not the name is fake news, when in fact, my source of truth is lying to me. In the big picture it really makes no real world difference, but this is the kind of thing that will end up making google lose its distinction as a trusted source of information.

      • Greg

        Until last year, none of the buildings in my office park had names in Google Maps and all of the streets were named “Access Road.” Maps would lead customers to the front gate and strand them there. I went online and named my building, “Greg’s Business Building.” That helped, but people would still get lost as Maps commanded them to, “Turn left on Access Road, then turn right on Access Road.” So I went on again, gave names to all of the streets and named my parking lot the “Greg’s Business Parking Lot.” Now Google Maps brings customers to my front door. The changes did indeed “fly through” and they’re still showing on the map. As long as no other user objects, they’ll remain. This crowd-sourcing feature makes Google Maps much better, as long as people use it in good faith.

        I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Google has hard-coded some famous landmarks to prevent pranks, but I’m not shocked to learn that the Russell Senate Office Building wasn’t one of them.

        Now that this incident has gotten publicity, I will not be surprised if Antifa starts going on Google Maps and renaming every Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, etc. landmark. A crowd-sourced attack, with a large number of Antifa vandals making the same changes, would probably baffle the algorithm and make Google Maps less useful.

      • Alexander Cheezem

        No, but if enough people do it — and Google’s staff doesn’t notice — it very well could. That one would probably be caught, but buildings get renamed all the time and some random staffer probably wouldn’t notice it was illegitimate.

        Basically, Google Maps works a lot like Wikipedia does.

    • adimagejim

      And if you searched a Google map for the Russell Senate Office building, would you find it? Or would you have to be in tune with what Google wants to call it?

      How about a map name change for the building where the DNC is housed?
      Perhaps take a poll here to decide what that should be newly called by Google maps.

    • Matthew B.

      I wonder if I could rename Sen. Boxer’s Oakland office to “M’am Boxer’s Senate Office”?

  2. Chris Marschner_

    If it is to be renamed it should be one fitting of that which takes place there.

    I just erased my cynical names. That would have been unbecoming.

    Renaming any building requires more than just a knee jerk response because of the passing of any person. If they are going to change the name focus on finding someone that exemplified the ideals of thoughtful and deliberate decision making. Preferably one not associated with government.

  3. I take these maps with a grain of salt the size of a boulder. A tourist location had maybe a quarter acre sink-hole in the mall parking lot. The mall has, or maybe had, a dozen stores. Google maps shows a pretty grassy lawn with a business or two icon, The 2011 image also showed a pass through building where there is a drive now.

    • I find it much better than navigating with index cards, as I used to do, but once or twice I’ve accidentally typed in the right house number with the wrong street name, and instead of telling me the location didn’t exist or wasn’t recorded, Google Maps tried to take me to where it thought the place ought to be. It extrapolated from the existing house numbers.
      As impressive as the concept is when it works, if that’s not incompetent design I don’t know what is.

      Also, it would pronounce “Dr” as “doctor”, which is funny when a human does it, because I know they’re doing on purpose. When a navigation software, which is wholly immersed with the context of location names, doesn’t know to say “drive”, then I start to get nervous.

        • Map navigation systems have gotten people killed. Granted, the folks were mind numb idiots who followed the robot’s directions into the desert, but still…

          You have to pay attention. This is why I have a compass in every car: it pays to have a general idea of what direction you are going, and where your destination is.

          In Texas, there is a lot of countryside to get lost in!

  4. Google has been fooled: this building will not be renamed.

    Apparently someone jumped the gun: the GOP hates the idea, which Schumer announced without talking to A SINGLE REPUBLICAN.

    https://legalinsurrection.com/2018/08/schumers-proposal-to-rename-building-after-mccain-unifies-gop-against-the-idea/

    The article is quite entertaining.

    “Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Schumer didn’t discuss the idea with other senators before making the announcement.

    “It’s my understanding that Sen. Schumer announced it without even talking to a single Republican,” Collins said. “I think a better approach, especially since we’re honoring the legacy of someone who believes in bipartisanship, is for the two leaders to get together and decide if this is the best way to honor him or is there another way that might be more appropriate.”

    Democrats are using McCain’s death to whitewash (I think that is the appropriate term) their history:

    ““The man whose name he would replace, Sen. Richard Russell, a towering figure in the Senate of his day, was an avowed opponent of civil rights and the architect of the Southern filibuster, which long delayed its passage,” Schumer said Monday. “It’s time that we recognize that as times change, so do our heroes.”

    Just like taking down statues and changing the names of schools. Control the historical narrative, control the population.

    • Orin T.

      Just like putting up statues and naming schools controls the historical narrative and therefore the population’ to put a different slant on your post.

      • A fair point, Orin. I think the difference is the ethics: it is ethically fine to name building and erect statues. It is how a society honors those who have made a significant contribution (or paid for the building, in some cases)

        Tearing them down is being done unethically, and therein lies the difference. That is my take, and it is open to discussion.

        Change my mind, in other words: I am not set on this answer.

  5. Orin T.

    Doesn’t Hallon’s razor apply here? I think that the problem has an easy solution. Just freeze the names of public bulidings! It shouldn’t be that hard and google can change them after checking with the proper authorities to see if a name change as really taken place.

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