Is A Google Contractor Trying To Destroy OpenStreetMap? (Updated)

Well, this is bad. OpenStreetMap, the Wikipedia of world maps, has been vandalised , with someone deliberately screwing up its data. Worse, the offending IP addresses seem to be coming from a set belonging to Google India. Be careful where you drive. Updated with official Google statement.

According to a blog entry at

Two OpenStreetMap accounts have been vandalizing OSM in London, New York and elsewhere from Google's IP address, the same address in India reported by Mocality.

Major streets have been outright deleted, and there have also been more subtle but more dangerous changes, such as reversing the direction of one-way streets.

Last week it came out that someone working for Google had scraped data from a small Kenyan startup called Mocality. Google apologised for the incident and are reportedly looking into how such a thing could have happened. Well, now it's got two things to investigate as has traced the map vandals back to the exact same Google India IP addresses. Google has been a close collaborator with OSM in the past, and it's unlikely that the company would want to damage it. It seems that these nefarious activities are the work of contractors employed by Google on a short-term basis. Perhaps one of them has gone rogue or is deliberately seeking to damage Google's reputation. Either way, let's hope someone catches the bastards soon, before anyone gets seriously hurt. [ReadWriteWeb via Techmeme]

UPDATE: Here's the official statement from Google:

The two people who made these changes were contractors acting on their own behalf while on the Google network. They are no longer working on Google projects.

UPDATE 2: OSM System Admin Tom Hughes has chimed-in over at the comments on the original post. To summarise, he thinks the post is ridiculous click-baiting.

As the person who (in my role as an OpenStreetMap system administrator) first discovered this `incident' let me start by saying that I consider this post to be grossly irresponsible and wholly inappropriate. The board of OSMF are making mountains out of tiny pimples here. It seems that they want this to be some sort of organised corporate malfeasance on the part of Google which is why they have tried to link it to the recent Mocality incident where there was indeed clear evidence of such behaviour.

The reality in this case is that there is no evidence that this is any different to the numerous other incidents we get all the time where users either accidentally or deliberately make bogus edits. The only difference in this case is that there happen to be two accounts (though we do not know if that is two people) and the user or users involved happen to (presumably) work for Google.

That is the sum total of what we know, and on the back of that, and without approaching Google at all, two leading board members have decided to reveal personal information about two of our users.

It seems to me that this is just an attempt to get some cheap publicity by trying to like the project to the Mocality incident, and I cannot support such behaviour.

So it appears that a couple of people who happen to have worked for Google India (but have been let go) were messing around with OSM while at work, and it looks safe to assume that it's entirely unrelated to the Mocality incident. There are just a lot of people at Google India, and it's a coincidence that the two incidents happened so close together. Google has been a big proponent of OSM, and it doesn't make any sense that it would try to damage it via childish prankery. We'll update again if we learn anything more, but this is looking like a case of "Nothin' to see here, folks."

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