Google is terminating its Map Maker tool in 2017. While this may not be alarming for many users on the surface, this is seen as a big step toward dissolving the search giant’s transparency per Search Engine Land contributor Joy Hawkins.
On Thursday, Hawkins weighed in on the possible effects of Map Makers’ shutdown and emphasized that the end of the tool in March 2017 could signal the start of more shady activities by spammers. According to Hawkins, this would just give spammers more freedom to make edits on the data that will be presented to users of Google Maps via the “suggest an edit” feature.
Editing certain data on the Google Maps is not something new at all. Spammers have previously made big leaps in either misrepresenting facts or just using this feature for their own benefit. With Map Maker, users can view what others edited. Thus, some marketing companies were able to track down spammers and report them to Google.
Since Map Maker will soon be terminated, users will not have a means to chase down spammers and see edits that have been made to sabotage them or their companies. Google will be the only party to see the edits, and there is no guarantee that proper sanctions will be imposed as quickly as possible.
Hawkins stated that this could be a big problem for the insurance industry since it is the frequent target of spam edits. For instance, a spammer recently managed to change the phone number of insurance companies listings to the same number, which belonged to a major provider. When people looked for an insurance provider online, they were directed to place a call on a single number.
On the whole, Hawkins maintained that terminating Map Maker would just enable spammers to hide easily instead of vanquishing them for good. Unless the leading search engine imposes more transparent measures to control spam edits, more and more problems and shady activities would pile up to destroy the credibility of Maps.
In November, Google reportedly announced that it is retiring Map Maker in March of next year. As replacement for the crowdsourced tool, Google is launching the Local Guides program. TechCrunch reported at the time that the new initiative involves volunteers who are willing to contribute facts for Google Maps and Google business listings in exchange for points, rewards and other perks.