Dave Oremland of Professional Bartending School in DC, alerted me to the fact that Google Places is now apparently going so far as to request a business license from some businesses to verify their authenticity. In this Google Places forum post the Commonwealth Sunoco of Boston asked:
I received an email from email@example.com. They are requesting a scanned copy of my business lisence. They sent the request to my business email and not to the email I used to create my listing.
I just want to know if this is a legitimate request and not some scam.
Google Community Manager Vanessa confirmed that it was really Google that was in fact asking for a business license:
Just to confirm: Yes, that request is from the Google Places support team.
This is the first report of Google going so far as to ask for a business license. The reasons for the action are unclear. Was there a question of a guideline violation or was it to settle a dispute as to who actually controls the listing? I have no idea.
I am of two minds about the procedure. I am a big proponent of Google cleaning up the index and this is certainly a way to do that. In the case of wildly abused industries like the Locksmith business it makes complete sense. But it is perhaps too intrusive and makes certain assumption about what is a business and might throw too much wheat out with the chafe.
Dave Oremland of felt strongly that this was incredibly intrusive and inappropriate:
I found this stunning, again as a business operator and as one with current issues with g places…and essentially its black hole non responsiveness.
A police or govt. official might ask for a business license. One incredibly unhappy customer out of thousands might do it. If you were in court it might be requested. Nobody else ever asks to see it. We have over 100 years of business ownership for our several businesses.
Nobody asks for it. Google, from its engineering cocoon, disconnected from the real world, and unwilling to establish direct contact through people, is using its power to force businesses to do something nobody else would do. Not all businesses can scan information, not all businesses will have a license.
What do you think? Is this an inappropriate intrusion or is it a great way for Google to start cleaning up their index?