Local Users Bill of Rights

In the past I have run a number of articles speaking to whether Local needed to be held to a higher standard. It has been like the Wild West in Local. One day brings up a case more bizarre than the next and one wonders if higher standards will be achieved and if so how.

While reading complaints today in the Google Maps for Business Group it occurred to me to ask you all: If you were writing a Local Users Bill of Rights, what would you include in it?

Should business users have an easy way to contest reviews with Google? Should end users have an obvious way to report bad map data? Should Local Search Directories provide customer support?

From the point of view of the end user local searcher and the business listing user of Local what would you want in a Local Users Bill of Rights?

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Local Users Bill of Rights by

9 thoughts on “Local Users Bill of Rights”

  1. This is a good question Mike and an important topic. My top 2 would be:
    1) The ability for small business to respond to reviews.
    2) The ability for small business to easily correct incorrect information.

    Directories should look at the ability to display other people’s information as a privilege and not a right. So, from the perspective of the directory… it should be called theBill of Privileges. 🙂

    Another trend that really annoys me is the spam site (made for adsense site) that is put in place on an expired domain. The “scam” goes like this… I had a yp company develop my site and then I cancelled all my advertising the next year. So, the domain expires. There is a company that take that domain over, places a page with adsense on it… and it appears in the all the maps/local sites for that business along with the original companies business info. They all need to get together to stop this one.

  2. There really are three stakeholders in Local- the company and its stockholders, the business providing the information and the end user looking for information.

    I like your idea of the Bill of Privileges as it restates the fundamental relationship. It might also be stated as a Bill of Obligations on the part of the Directories to the other stake holders.

    I would like to see more disclosure of privacy issues in services like Goog-411 where the basic policy is opt-out if you can.


  3. I second Local Hound’s concept of giving business owners a chance to respond to both negative and positive reviews. Needless to say, this ability might be breeding ground for flame wars between owners and customers, but it could also be an instrument of justice.

    And, I do think that you ought to be able to opt out of the system. In some cases, Google’s misinformation has harmed businesses, and to have no way to opt out of being incorrectly listed in a directory of any kind is really frustrating.

    I’m not sure what the user’s rights should be, Mike. That’s an interesting question. For example, I’m not sure the user has the right to expect accurate information. Books and newspapers have typos, after all, not to mention, total inaccuracies in their content. So, what can the user expect as a privilege or right?

    I’ll have to think about that some more. I can’t think of a clear response.


  4. Miriam

    For whatever reason your post was tagged as spam, go figure.

    Examples of user’s rights:

    -That they be able to quickly and easily report data errors on underlying data.

    Have you ever tried to report an error in the map data that is used? Google expects that you will find your way to Navteq and from there find out how to do it. What’s wrong with an obvious link?

    -Clear statement of the privacy policy

    For example on Goog-411 which uses Map’s data they record your complete conversation after they have made the connection. Opting out is next to impossible and deleting the recordings are a hidden option.

    -Right to know Data sources and data handling procedures

    OK so data is inaccurate but shouldn’t a consumer being able to go in and see where the data came from so that they have some idea of whether the data is good or not? And same as one, the source data should be identifiable.

    Chris Silver Smith noted in Reply

  5. Hi Mike,
    Thanks for retrieving my comment from the spam file. I wonder why that happened.

    Okay – so by user, we’re talking about business owners. I was thinking along the lines of the user being the general public – not the business owner. That’s a whole different ball of wax.

    In this case, I absolutely believe that if a corporation (say Google) takes it upon themselves to publish your data, you (the business owner) should have the right to communicate with them in a simple, straightforward manner. Having data incorrectly published on a medium as important as the web can be so damaging, and as we’ve seen in the Maps group, causes tremendous problems for the business owner.

    At the very least, Google should be employing a live chat staff to provide one-on-one contact for the people whose data they have appropriated for their business model. The absence of this gives you lots to write about, Mike!


  6. Miriam

    I assume that your missive was in the spam bin due to a shift in your karma. 🙂 or maybe the ip address at your new place was previously used for nefarious purposes.

    I was thinking both types of users…end user and business users…


    PS I would just as soon not have as much to write about in this regard, thank you 🙂

  7. I’m not sure how a Local Users Bill of Rights would really help endusers/consumers of local search.

    It’s my impression that local users are primarily interested in the completeness/correctness of data and maybe not a whole lot else overall. The privacy policy aspect is of lesser interest on average (mainly because most users are pretty ignorant about the implications), but that aspect seems mostly covered by most search engine’s existing stated privacy policies which users could find if they dig down far enough.

    It seems to me that it’s the business owners who are the most interested in how the data is presented, and likely the most frustrated with how the data ends up in the condition that it does when presented to users. There should be more disclosure to business owners so that they can understand where the data in their listings originated from and better means of correcting it.

    For instance, you mention Navteq in conjunction with mapping errors, and I could mention a few other map providers — it’s not at all straightforward to send them requests for error corrections. I’ve seen some map provider sites in the past that simply don’t provide means for disclosing errors to them at all. Endusers might supply correction reports for map errors, but business owners are often even more motivated and simultaneously in possession of better info for correction than most endusers.

    Map and Driving Direction errors are simply the worst aspect of all of local search — there is a very high frequency of errors and it’s been going on for a great many years with seemingly lackadaisical attitude on the part of the providers about correcting them. Companies which display maps are eager to pass the buck back to the map provider and rapidly disavow responsibility for displaying erroneous info. And providers dismissively suggest that the errors will magically disappear in the next update, eight months down the road.

    I say “dismissively” because the providers could build up some better sort of methodology for enabling endusers to provide corrections. New streets and new neighborhoods could appear much more rapidly than a year away. There should be more options nowadays than waiting for the mapping provider to process updates from city, state and county government sources on their yearly cycle.

    Google Maps has enabled a level of user-provided corrections, to location pinpoint markers. But, there’s not a facility for allowing a business owner whose location is on a street not yet marked on the underlying map image to provide update info.

    One question we might ask is: does providing tools for informing Google Maps and other local search sites of data errors sufficiently satisfy responsibility for having correct data? As a user, I think it’s great that we could tell them what to change/fix in listings, but I’m on the run most of the time and don’t have time to pause and correct their stuff — and I often won’t find it’s wrong until I’m in the car trying to find the place.

    Should the industry come together to get an independent auditor test each of them for data correctness? As a consumer, maybe the best I could hope for would be to be informed about the percentage of error found in each online local search service. I’d mostly gravitate to the most complete and lowest in error — if I could easily tell which one that is.

    Consumers of local search want complete and correct info. Providing a bill of rights telling me I have the right to complete/correct info seems to fall short to me — I would interpret it as a PR play, glossing over or attempting to distract me from what’s going on. I don’t think a bill of rights would really help me get what I need or improve data quality unless the bill of rights provided me with some means of fining the providers each time they send me to an incorrect map location or show me a business that’s closed up.

    For it to work, I think a Bill of Rights would have to have some teeth — something which would incent or punish providers to be more aggressive with ongoing quality improvement efforts.

  8. Hi Chris-

    I would strongly endorse the idea of independent review of providers based on a set of quality measures! It is about time.

    My thought is if the industry does not subject itself to such self regulated review, a more regulated review process will be imposed upon it.


  9. I would simply ask that Google provide a simple and expanded level of customer service to correct errors. Google Maps has appeared with increasing frequency over the last 1.5 years. The information is replete with errors. Google has established “Groups” to air these problems. Too often these issues go unsolved or unsettled.

    Google assembled immense amounts of data, loaded it into maps, created great visibility, added features and algo’s to this data, set up methods to edit the data…..and then has left the business owners on a merry romp in trying to correct misinformation.

    Its higly irresponsible. I’d like to see the issue raised at ever greater levels of public awareness to have pressure put on Google to correct these problems and institute a form of customer service.

    The driving/directions problems have existed long before Google maps started showing within organic searches. They exist in all maps, directions programs.

    Some time ago I ran into an experienced provider of maps for a business that has produced old line hard copies for decades before the web. He described how his staff shrunk as the web based mapping companies picked up employees with experience. He described how the accuracy issue is simply shortchanged by establising maps and creating sets of directions with far fewer standards than those that were utilized by the hard mapping companies.

    Much of the world has moved to web based mapping solutions and their data and applications simply aren’t that good. It starts at the top with putting more resources into solutions that are not as problematic.

    Again I’d like to see a larger arena address this issue so that the search engines and their mapping partners are forced to step to the plate to invest more in the solutions and create better records and technology.

    It needs a larger louder arena to push the engines to upgrade their development of local information and maps/directions to a better set of solutions.

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