Someday a YCombinator company is going to make front-page news after having tried to spread smallpox using dirty blankets, and someone is going to suggest that Paul Graham must have tacitly suggested it was a good idea, and they are going to be stupid.
Paul Graham is an investor, not a manager. If PG ran a company that hired a contractor who did some dirty deeds, PG would be in a load of hot water.
I'm no Google apologist. But it was 20 edits from 2 people. We have no clue what their motivation was, but probably they were just being assholes.
If an asshole Google employee started trolling on HN, posting 20 obnoxious comments, and pg tracked the IP addresses back to the same IP address as this incident, do you think he should raise a stink and say that Google is trying to take down HN because it's a competitor of Google+?
Come on, that's ridiculous. Is this really the effort of Google? They have tens of thousands of employees, and hundreds of thousands of computers all over the world. Google attempted to poison an open source map using 2 employees and 20 edits? Come on. If they redirected 0.01% of their traffic to that website, they could probably keep them down indefinitely.
The one scary thing, however, is that if you do do something obnoxious, like get into a flame war with someone, or if you add some false information to wikipedia for whatever reason, and the owner of the website complains online about it, you could get fired, even if your comments were completely "anonymous". That to me is scarier than any of this other stuff.
That's ridiculous. You're basically arguing that all employers should strictly limit the websites that any employee visits, since the employer should be held accountable for their employees actions.
If the contractors did something against the terms of their employment and got fired, that's one thing. But to hold the employer responsible and say they should "make good" on the actions of their employees is wrong.
So in the case of the luxury cruise ship sinking, or Exxon Valdez, the ship owner is responsible the cost of cleanup.
"whereas an employee acting in his or her own right rather than on the employer's business is undertaking a "frolic" and will not subject the employer to liability."
A Google contractor adding false information to OpenStreetMap is undertaking a "frolic", unless that was specifically his job at Google. If Google specifically told him to do it, then yes Google should be held liable, however, if the contractor is killing time and being an asshole while twiddling his thumbs, Google will not be held liable.
I wonder how this point will pan out with the case of Costa Concordia.
So the contract company, the actual employer of these people should be responsible from the sounds of it, not Google.
Here's the reason why: these people work on Google's premises; Google probably dictates what time they have to show up for work; and generally tells them how to perform that work. I don't have the names of the legal cases where the precedents were set off the top of my head, but under those circumstances, the court has ruled that vicarious liability continues to apply.
This can be a good or bad thing depending on the situation. The original company can show it is cheaper to use a contracting company, but also as seen in the Gulf oil spill, there can be a lot of finger pointing between companies on who is responsible for damage where when it comes time to deal with real problems.
If the employee was acting without the knowledge of anyone, then sure, you can argue the case that the employee went rogue and the company should be shielded from liability.
But in the case of Mocality, it certainly looks like a concerted effort - someone from management surely knew about it, or perhaps even ordered it. The fact that Larry himself isn't aware/didn't approve seems rather moot. So the question is: how far up does it have to go before something is considered an act of the corporation?
Now then, saying that Google owes some of these folks more than just an apology is perfectly reasonable in my view. I think they owe Mocality money for whatever business & reputation damage they suffered. OSM is said to have suffered about 20 troll edits from two people, if the article's update is to be believed. I'm not really sure how best to make that right, but maybe Google can go through the logs and help fix everything.
And somehow, no one at Google had any idea? Oh, please. If this was Microsoft, you'd all be raising hell, but because it's Google everyone is talking about how great they are for dropping the contractors? I'm disappointed in you all.
It's disingenuous to fault a group of individuals because of how you think they would react to a hypothetical.
It's not 1999 anymore, most people have moved on from automatic MS-bashing.
I think people want a better explanation then what we've seen so far. Vandalizing wikipedia for teh lawlz is one thing, vandalizing OSM with potentially dangerous things like switching one way streets is another kettle of fish. Especially when your employer (err employer's employer) runs a well known competitor.
And the term "sacked" can certainly be used to apply to service providers / contractors:
I'm saying the writer at Verge should not have used the word "sacked" because it does not accurately describe the situation.
(Once we had someone tag the whole of Ireland as a glacier because there was a lot of ice (probably for the laugh))
This actually pertains to a discussion I had with a friend, who recently informed me that he found out that doctors not only look things up on the Internet like the rest of us, they sometimes even use Wikipedia. So you could cause some serious damage there as well. Granted, if the doctors would STOP DOING THAT it wouldn't be an issue.
As comments at TheVerge note: this is the third notable instance of contractor misbehavior in very recent weeks for Google. Seems to me that the company needs to tighten up its contractor vetting and oversight markedly. This is a general outsourcing problem: delegating work to another entity means you've created a new obligation within your organization to oversee that work.
It's hardly new, and it's hardly specific to business. Apple, Dell, HP, Microsoft, and other are currently dealing with fallout from outsourced labor practices, particularly in China (Foxconn / Shenzhen), but also India and elsewhere. The US government has seen much criticism over its outsourced contracts. BP has had some disagreements with its contractors Cameron International, Andarko Petrolium (Mitsui Oil exploration), Weatherford International, Transocean, and Halliburton over fish-oiling services rendered.
What might be interesting would be to see a clever and distributed solution by Google. My expectations aren't high, but it's definitely a wicked problem and they'd be a good crew to tackle it.
(1) this is the same India contractor that was involved in the scandal last week.
(2) The new infractions happened after that scandal broke.
(3) As far as we know they are still giving their business to this contractor.
Then you have to seriously doubt whether "appropriate corrective action" has been taken.
1: If this is the case, Google have correctly identified the source and it turned out to be the same in both cases.
2: Mocality broke on Friday. The OSM incidents were reported Monday, and apparently had been ongoing for at least a few days prior. I'd say they're largely coincident.
3: It does take some time for a business to respond, especially where contractual issues are involved. I suspect in this case the OSM report was a final straw / accelerator in Google's decision process.
Speaking for myself, I used the term "apparently" as we've just got Google's report of their action, I haven't seen it verified elsewhere. Though I'd be inclined to believe their statement (lying at this point would be a Really Dumb Move[tm]).
Really, given the scale of operations, this is lightning action on Google's part.
As I noted, the problem here is that there are three incidents (two tied to the same contractor) of malfeasance in Google's name (if indirectly, through contractors, on Google's part). This speaks to shoddy practices, or in best light, considerable room for improvement.
Hell, I do it, and I don't work for them.
This seems to apply to several levels of this incident, up to and including this discussion of it.
Most, if not all, of the discussion here in both directions is speculation. It seems to me that it's still early. The Google detractors here will be much more persuasive, to me at least, if they come back in a few weeks and Google has still not issued a strong apology and full, detailed explanation.
I can see why Occam's Razor should be accepted at face value, but Hanlon's appears to be just a just-so idea without any logical foundation other than appealing to certain human prejudices.
In any event, "Google detractors" can say whatever they want, but to claim that people running Google are "stupid" or that the company is governed by a mindset characterized by "stupidity" is really hard to swallow.
Think of it more as, "Until we rule out incompetence, we shouldn't assume malice – and incompetence is far more common than malice".
It's not like they sweared on forums or watched porn. Vandalizing OSM is an effort-intensive task. You dont't do that because of lack of control. You do that because you were told to, or motivated to in any other way.
I don't see how they could do that accidentally; therefore we should seek why they did that; who knew what they were doing; and how it could happen at all.
What were their job? What were they brought in for?
A company I worked for once hired a guy to help them build up a social media profile and agreed on a pay scheme similar to "$X for every 100 followers/friends". He followed every follow-back spammer he could find and got paid rather well for gaining about 20 actual readers. I guarantee you this was not what the company wanted, but it's easy to create perverse incentives if you're not careful.
did google hired them to 'overcome OSM in that region?' or to 'improve google maps?'
The trolls that you notice do big bold things; the bad trolls are the ones you notice.
Good trolling is a dead art; the single post that started a 400 message flame filled cross-posted thread that caused everyone to kill-file everyone else? You just don't get that anymore.
It is very easy to run into forum and post guro and yell obscenities.
Making long lasting subtle changes is hard. But that is why it's fun, for a small number of trolls.
(I should state that I don't think this is the case with the contractor; I think they're just stupid and misguided, and that Google needs to start thinking about how they provide oversight for this kind of stuff.)
Someone went through the trouble of creating an entire website for this. There's even trolling in the HTML code of the pages.
That's dedication to the art of trolling!
anonymous and other small groups do troll, real trolling, occasionally... and attributing it to 4chan's /b/ is just the cherry on top of the cake for said trolling.
So: what were their achievements tied to?
Vandals usually do bright, bold things. Deface, draw over, swear. What they did here speaks either sabotage or personal hatred. I guess there are particularly devious people, but why a sizable number of those would suddenly contract for google india?
As I've mentioned in other comments, I've vandalized wikis before. I did it because it was funny to people standing around. It doesn't involve much imagination to see someone opening up OpenStreetMap, clicking "reverse direction of street", and then gathering up some nearby coworkers to show. "Hey guys, watch this! Reverse! Reverse!" "Hahah, 8th Avenue doesn't go that way! Hilarious!"
That's psychologically improbable and becomes gravely improbable if there were more than one vandal.
If you want some "Google is evil" fodder, this is not it. Sorry.
I don't believe Google is stupid enough to advocate vandalizing an opponent's products.
But don't try to drop facts because it doesn't suit your argument. They were contractors working for Google. Saying anything less than that is dishonest. You could just as easily fall further down the slippery slope and condemn the entire human race for the actions of a couple of contractors, because the contractors were humans.
We have contractors onsite where I work. If they did something bad (especially if it is in any way related to what we do, as in all those recent Google cases) I would say that we would be to blame to the same extent as if they were employed by us.
What Google should do, and probably should have done after the Kenyan thing, is terminate any and all contracts with the contracted firm.
Also, to all the folks implying malicious intent: What does Google stand to gain from sabotaging Open Street Maps? Especially after sponsoring it for some years in a row via Summer of Code and similar initiatives?
Google can gain by saying, look, our maps are more accurate. Of course, it would have taken an idiot to believe that would work, just like someone who believes that they can change history by editing Wikipedia articles. I suspect there is pretty much zero chance that someone higher up at Google would be that dumb. Then again, one of the co-founders of this company thought it was ok to break US law in regard to illegal pharmaceutical sales.
This has nothing to do with nationality. This has to do with vetting the quality and trustworthiness of those with access to Google's network, employee or otherwise. That is a pretty damn big deal in my opinion.
Of course Google should continue to use Indians at their discresion. Anything else would be group punishment.
Google doesn't stand to gain anything from sabotaging Open Streets Maps, but that does not mean that they are not responsible for sabotage in their name. That is not a contradiction.
We have two at the moment:
First, that one or more than one of workers in Google in India for some reason had strange sort of hatred towards OSM, not caused by they working for Google, which caused them to vandalize OSM objects in certain cities located in different hemisphere.
Second, that they for reasons unknown were told to do that; Or the measure of their achievements could be influenced by OSM maps being worse; the profit has to be short-term and obvious for lower-level workers to fall for it.
First seems to be highly improbable; second seems just improbable :) Right now second wins.
Any other mental models?
Who could be behind this?
"Do you honestly think that Google can be responsive for every aspect of their contractors?"
I wonder, under what tasks were these hours billed by the contractor?
Are there any official statements? Basically all a see after these incidents is Google only responding when being pressed by individual reporters, and even then only in very superficial terms.
Sweeping it under the rug seems to be a more appropriate description of Google's response to some extremely serious accusations. This isn't just a random act of drunken mischief by someone that just happens to be a Google employee. We're talking criminal activities undertaken by people being paid by Google, using Google's corporate infrastructure and aimed at Google's competitors.
You have no evidence that they condoned the operation, or that they're trying to cover it up. All you have is conjecture until there's more information available, and that's not useful at all.
But since we're in the land of conjecture, let's think about this: Google, a massive corporation generating huge profits, suddenly decides to scrape a Kenyan database piecemeal (rather than just sucking up the whole thing at once before starting, like an intelligent person would do), then engages telemarketers to fraudulently cold call a bunch of small businesses in the hopes of selling them web hosting.
Now, how much income do you suppose that would bring in? a few hundred thousand? Maybe a million if they're lucky? Would it even be worth a multinational's time and effort to cold-call selling websites, even if it were totally kosher? I doubt it. Add to that the negative press that a scam like this would bring when it's eventually exposed and it's well into the realm of ludicrous. Even if this were supposedly perpetrated by the most evilest nastiest company in the world, I'd have the same argument (money).
So, we're left with the next most likely possibility: a small number of people with internal access to Google's infrastructure, for whom a few hundred thousand to a million dollars worth of sales would be quite lucrative.
And if you were in Google's shoes, with this happening somewhere in your GIANT company, what would you do? If you answered "push out a press statement telling all right away", you'd be betraying a fundamental lack of understanding in how large corporations work. Their size makes them slow. Messages have to go up and down the chain of command. Investigations take days, weeks, sometimes even months. Bureaucracy, procedures, and legal issues hamper every step.
So put away your pitchfork and wait like everyone else.
Yikes, I think you're getting overly excited. Two contractors in India errantly changed the direction of a street and suddenly it's a "serious accusation" of "criminal activity"?
For me this falls somewhere between, "meh" and "mischievous prank" -- strongly leaning towards "meh."
Please tell me one thing: why the hell would any contractor go out of his way to sabotage your competition?
This can happen only if the management has insinuated in a wink-wink, nod-nod way that vandalizing the competition might yield certain rewards.
And please, if this practice continues and everyone just sweeps it under the carpet as something 'contractors and not the company did', then soon we'll have an army of contractors hired by Samsung, MS, Facebook, et al going around planting bombs in competitors' HQs.
Someone has to own up. If my dog shits on your lawn, I still have to clean it up.
Perhaps someone can release a little utility that trawls through Apache logs called HasGoogleAlteredYourData?
This does not mean they were sacked. This does not mean Google were actively seeking to destroy OSM data. I'm pretty sure if they wanted to do that, they could do so without anyone finding out.
Two people, changing some OSM data (maliciously or otherwise), from their work PC's, is NOT newsworthy in my opinion. The original accusation, yes. If they provide more details of the attacks, definitely. This post however, is not.
Does anyone know how big this office is?
Planting an idea that OSM is not trustworthy i.e. diminishing it's perceived value by random sabotage is the best way to keep it from growing.
This isn't writing like 'dick dick dick' on Snooki's WikiPedia page. No one vandalizes OSM data for fun. They do it if they have an incentive to do so. This incentive must have been provided by Google management.
Stop defending what cannot be defended.
The only way to get to your "cannot be defended" conclusion is to start from a "I hate Google" position and color the evidence as you read it. So let me guess: you're an iOS nut, right? :)