Google has been on the defensive this past couple of weeks. It introduced the Google+ integration with search to quite a lot of criticism, most of it warranted. Then came even more troubling news that it, or a third party contractor hired by Google, was engaging in rather unethical business practices in Kenya, scraping data from a local company, Mocality, and falsely claiming to have a partnership with it.
It gets worse, now, OpenStreetMap is accusing Google of vandalizing its data and making erroneous contributions to the wiki-style map service.
It says that people coming from the same IP range as the one involved in the Kenyan incident have made quite a lot of 'contributions' to OSM over the past year and at least some of them were deemed sheer vandalism.
"Preliminary results show users from Google IP address ranges in India deleting, moving and abusing OSM data including subtle edits like reversing one-way streets," OpenStreetMap wrote.
"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," it said.
"The most obvious vandalism started around last Thursday last week from these particular users however it may take us some time to do a full analysis. In fact over the last year we have had over 102 thousand hits on OSM using at least 17 accounts from this Google IP," it added.
These are serious accusations and they're coming from a respected source. Once again, Google has some questions to answer. Google said it is aware of the accusations and is investigating the issue.
"We're aware of OpenStreetMap's claims that vandalism of OSM is occurring from accounts originating at a Google IP address. We are investigating the matter and will have more information as soon as possible," Google told Read Write Web.
Google admitted to the accusations made by Mocality. It said it was "mortified" by the situation, apologized to the Kenyan company and is investigating the matter internally. Now it's doing the same for this case.
One incident was bad enough, but a second one raises quite a lot more questions. Both clearly make the company look bad and, lately, Google has been having to defend its stance a lot more than it used to.
It seems strange that a company like Google would risk damage to its brand through actions like this when it would have so little to earn in the process. OpenStreetMap may be similar to Google Maps, but it is no way competition.
What is clear though is that there are plenty of companies that would benefit from Google's image being tarnished, through its own actions or not.