Technology

Google suspends Map Maker because of vandalism

Hack on Map Maker
Image caption One hack appeared to put ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden in the White House

Google is suspending a service that allowed members of the public to contribute to its maps, following vandalism.

Map Maker allowed users to draw features, adding roads, rivers, green spaces and local businesses.

But some edits, such as an image of its Android mascot urinating on an Apple logo, were not as welcome.

Google said that the shutdown is "temporary" but admitted that it will take more than a few days to fix.

Last month, it was forced to apologise for the Android graffiti but since then, several other Map Maker hacks have been spotted.

The service had relied on a mixture of Google reviewers and trusted users to moderate Map Maker contributions, a system which, the search giant now admits, has not been adequate.

'Large-scale prank'

Map Maker team member Pavirthra Kanakarajan explained the decision to suspend the service in a post, linked to from the Map Maker page.

"We have been experiencing escalated attacks to spam Google Maps over the past few months... As a consequence, we suspended auto-approval and user moderation across the globe," she said.

"The most recent incident was particularly troubling and unfortunate - a strong user in our community chose to go and create a large scale prank on the map," she added.

Following the Android graffiti, Google decided that all its edits would go through a manual review process but that quickly led to a large backlog.

"Given the current state of the system, we have come to the conclusion that it is not fair to any of our users to let them continue to spend time editing. Every edit you make is essentially going to a backlog that is growing very fast," said Ms Kanakarajan.

"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."

Edward's Snow Den

Google introduced Map Maker in 2008 as a tool to allow users to edit the information on the service, similar to the way Wikipedia allows users to edit its pages.

Another high profile recent hack saw ex-National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden placed in the White House, via a new business called Edward's Snow Den.

"That wasn't a Map Maker issue but rather a problem with how Google deals with local listings," explained Ms Kanakarajan.

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