Cartographic Vandalism

By Robert Bennett,

Cartographic vandalism is the intentional defacement of collaborative geographic information in digital maps. Points of interest are not the only vandalized assets; roads and trails are also vandalized.

The following screen-shot from The Verge exemplifies cartographic vandalism and the perils of using crowdsourced geographic information with minimal quality control by experts in the contributed data.

Cartographic Vandalism

[ Image Source: The Verge ]

The above cartographic vandalism was first spotted by The Washington Post. According to the Washington Post: "This isn't the first time Google Maps has been hit by what amounts to third-party vandalism. Last month, people noticed that the White House had been trollingly tagged as former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's lair. Weeks later, the Internet discovered Google's Android mascot urinating on an Apple logo in Pakistan."

Washington Post: If you search Google Maps for the N-word, it gives you the White House
"'Some inappropriate results are surfacing in Google Maps that should not be, and we apologize for any offense this may have caused', said a Google spokesperson. 'Our teams are working to fix this issue quickly.'"

Cartographic Vandalism

CNN: Google Maps shuts down editing after 'robot peeing' incident
"...We have been experiencing escalated attacks to spam Google Maps over the past few months... A Google spokesperson said some users have been creating 'all kinds of map pranks,' such as fake highway exits."

May 2011: Google suspends its public Map Maker Tool
Update: Google Map Maker will be retired in March 2017

The Guardian: Runner uses Nike+ app to draw penises
"San Francisco-based runner uses GPS to draw run pictures of penises, dogs and Space Invaders aliens on Nike+ map."

In the following screen-shot, a discussion between volunteer Google Map Maker editors illustrates how the names of trails on maps are easily defaced with crowdsourced data. Notice the section of highlighted text where Bill says, "Do what I do. If you don't know the name, make one up--for example, Grand Staircase and Guardian Angel Pass in Calico Basin. I made up both and eventually they'll stick."

Cartographic Vandalism Trail Names

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