Google—the internet’s largest search destination—can legally profit from fraud on its platform and has little incentive to fix it. But this isn’t a problem easily solved by ethics or legal amendments because current circumstances make changing the status quo extremely difficult. Nevertheless, there’s still more that we all can do to mitigate fraud on the internet.
Why Google Maps Has a Fraud Problem
Google corners the search market with 63 percent of all queries on the web. You might’ve even expected that number to be higher given that Microsoft garners almost all of the rest and people have a genuine bias against Bing. Despite growing issues of trust, almost two-thirds of the world still chooses Google for search and Chrome as their browser. With clear dominance in the search market, the company’s platform is an ideal target for fraud in the same way viruses and other exploits target Windows systems more than any other. When you want to find the largest pool of victims you start with the largest group of people.
Nevertheless, Google’s efforts to combat the fraud on its platform appear minimal and mostly ineffective. The Wall Street Journal recently broke a story accusing Google of profiting over millions of fake and fraudulent listings on its platform, but what seemed like news to many should have felt like déjà vu. This has been very public knowledge for over five years. More than half a decade ago, cybersecurity expert and hacker Bryan Seely used an exploit in Google Maps‘ business listings to change the contact numbers for the FBI and Secret Service to wiretap their calls. He successfully recorded 40 calls in a single day using this process in order to demonstrate the problem to the government. The government listened, told Google to stop, Google did, and then it started back up again three months later.