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17 January 2012, 10:18

OpenStreetMap claims map vandalism traced to Google IP range - Update

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OpenStreetMap, the open and crowd-sourced mapping service, has determined that vandalism to the open source maps is being committed by users coming from IP address ranges registered to Google. OpenStreetMap founder Steve Coast, system administrator Grant Slater and board member Mikel Maron all signed a blog posting publicly exposing the vandalism.

The bogus changes range from the obvious adding or deleting of nodes to the map or posting junk labels on locations, to the subtle but dangerous – such as reversing traffic flow on one way streets. Two accounts have been noted modifying maps in London and New York, and have been making more obvious changes since last Thursday 12 January. OpenStreetMap has yet to do a full analysis of activity from the IP range which amounts to 102,000 hits using 17 accounts over the last year.

"These actions are somewhat baffling given our past good relationship with Google which has included donations and Summer of Code work", said the two OpenStreetMap board members, adding they wanted an explanation from Google and an "undertaking not to allow this kind of thing to happen in the future". The authors of the posting noted that the IP address in question is the same India based IP address that was involved in scraping the business directory information of Kenyan startup business Mocality last week. Google apologised for that incident saying it was "mortified to learn" that the scraping was happening.

Google PR told ReadWriteWeb's Marshall Kirkpatrick it was aware of the OpenStreetMap claims and was investigating the matter. The disclosure of the vandalism appears to be controversial within the OpenStreetMap team, though. Tom Hughes, the OpenStreetMap sysadmin who says he discovered the problem, said in a comment to the blog posting that the board of the OpenStreetMap Foundation was "grossly irresponsible" for publicly disclosing the issue without approaching Google and called the disclosure "an attempt to get some cheap publicity".

Update: Google has released a statement in which it says there were "two people who made these changes" and they "were contractors acting on their own behalf" while using the Google network. The two people are "no longer working on Google projects" says Google. The original OSM blog posting has been updated with more details on the incident.


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