So, the last couple of weeks have not been good ones for the Google Maps team. First some public-spirited Android fans decided to prove their pride with a bit of digital vandalism, using the Map Maker tool to show the Bugdroid mascot pissing on an Apple logo somewhere in Pakistan. That little mishap led Google to disable Map Maker submissions altogether. Then earlier this week, users found that searching for certain racist terms in Google Maps would lead to results for the White House, among other similar combinations.
Amazingly, this is not the least classy part of this story.
Google is sorry. They're very sorry. As of right now listing submission exploits that caused the keyword problems have been fixed, and also, Google is sorry. Vice President of Engineering and Product Management Jen Fitzpatrick's post on the Official Google Maps blog goes to great lengths to say so.
For Maps, this means using content about businesses and other public places from across the web. But this week, we heard about a failure in our system—loud and clear. Certain offensive search terms were triggering unexpected maps results, typically because people had used the offensive term in online discussions of the place.
It still isn't clear if the White House issue was caused by intentional vandalism (perhaps a variation of the classic "Googlebomb" technique) or simply as an unintended result of Google indexing certain racist websites for web searches, but Fitzpatrick says that they're working on the problem of automated tagging either way.
Again, we sincerely apologize for the offense this has caused, and we will do better in the future.
TL;DR: Google is sorry.
- Google (sorry)