The Google Maps features announced today aim to make sharing and finding local recommendations easier, and a new community challenge may add some fun to the process.
Google Maps Photo Updates
A new content type will soon be rolled out to Google Maps called photo updates.
Photo updates allow users to share experiences and highlights with recent photos without being required to leave a review.
A photo update consists of a recent picture of a place with a short text description.
To add a photo update, start by selecting a place in Google Maps and going to the “Updates” tab. Then tap on the “Add a photo update” button.
From there select the photos and add a short description. Users can upload as many photos as they want in a single photo update. Photo updates from other people can be viewed in the same Updates tab.
When this feature rolls out in the coming weeks it will be the first time users have been able to add photos of a place without writing an accompanying review.
This makes the photo sharing process on Google Maps more casual, akin to how one would share photos on social media.
Photo updates could potentially lead to an influx of user uploads for places and businesses. Those photos can assist others when deciding where to visit next.
Draw Roads on Google Maps
Google Maps users will soon be able to report on road changes by drawing new or missing roads with a desktop editing tool.
When a road is missing in the desktop version of Maps, click the side menu button and select “Edit the map.”
From there, select “Missing Road” and begin making edits by drawing lines. The road editing tool will also allow users to rename roads, change road directionality, and realign or delete incorrect roads.
See a short demonstration of the road editor in this video provided by Google:
In the road editor users can let Google know if a road is closed with details like dates, reasons, and directions. All user edits to a road will be vetted by Google being being published.
This feature is rolling out over the coming months to all 80 countries that already allow users to report road updates.
Google Maps Community Challenge
Google is piloting a new community challenge feature that aims to encourage Maps users nationwide to contribute more reviews, photos, and updates.
The community challenge is live on Android in the US for the next month. Users can participate in the challenge by going to the Contribute tab and selecting the option to “Join the Local Love challenge.”
Each contribution will count toward a collective goal of updating 100,000 businesses in one month. Feedback from this challenge will help with creating campaigns in more countries in the future.
Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say
Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states to resolve accusations that it tracked people’s locations in violation of state laws, including snooping on consumers’ whereabouts even after they told the tech behemoth to bug off.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it is time for Big Tech to recognize state laws that limit data collection efforts.
“I have been ringing the alarm bell on big tech for years, and this is why,” Mr. Landry, a Republican, said in a statement Monday. “Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to big tech.”
The attorneys general said the investigation resulted in the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said Google’s penalty is a “historic win for consumers.”
“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt out of tracking,” Mr. Tong said. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”
Location tracking can help tech companies sell digital ads to marketers looking to connect with consumers within their vicinity. It’s another tool in a data-gathering toolkit that generates more than $200 billion in annual ad revenue for Google, accounting for most of the profits pouring into the coffers of its corporate parent, Alphabet, which has a market value of $1.2 trillion.
The settlement is part of a series of legal challenges to Big Tech in the U.S. and around the world, which include consumer protection and antitrust lawsuits.
Though Google, based in Mountain View, California, said it fixed the problems several years ago, the company’s critics remained skeptical. State attorneys general who also have tussled with Google have questioned whether the tech company will follow through on its commitments.
The states aren’t dialing back their scrutiny of Google’s empire.
Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was filing a lawsuit over reports that Google unlawfully collected millions of Texans’ biometric data such as “voiceprints and records of face geometry.”
The states began investigating Google’s location tracking after The Associated Press reported in 2018 that Android devices and iPhones were storing location data despite the activation of privacy settings intended to prevent the company from following along.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich went after the company in May 2020. The state’s lawsuit charged that the company had defrauded its users by misleading them into believing they could keep their whereabouts private by turning off location tracking in the settings of their software.
Arizona settled its case with Google for $85 million last month. By then, attorneys general in several other states and the District of Columbia had pounced with their own lawsuits seeking to hold Google accountable.
Along with the hefty penalty, the state attorneys general said, Google must not hide key information about location tracking, must give users detailed information about the types of location tracking information Google collects, and must show additional information to people when users turn location-related account settings to “off.”
States will receive differing sums from the settlement. Mr. Landry’s office said Louisiana would receive more than $12.7 million, and Mr. Tong’s office said Connecticut would collect more than $6.5 million.
The financial penalty will not cripple Google’s business. The company raked in $69 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2022, according to reports, yielding about $13.9 billion in profit.
Google downplayed its location-tracking tools Monday and said it changed the products at issue long ago.
“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement.
Google product managers Marlo McGriff and David Monsees defended their company’s Search and Maps products’ usage of location information.
“Location information lets us offer you a more helpful experience when you use our products,” the two men wrote on Google’s blog. “From Google Maps’ driving directions that show you how to avoid traffic to Google Search surfacing local restaurants and letting you know how busy they are, location information helps connect experiences across Google to what’s most relevant and useful.”
The blog post touted transparency tools and auto-delete controls that Google has developed in recent years and said the private browsing Incognito mode prevents Google Maps from saving an account’s search history.
Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees said Google would make changes to its products as part of the settlement. The changes include simplifying the process for deleting location data, updating the method to set up an account and revamping information hubs.
“We’ll provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow,” Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees wrote. “We’ll also continue deleting Location History data for users who have not recently contributed new Location History data to their account.”
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.