Artist creates Google Map ‘traffic jam’ with wagon of smartphones

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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How to delete your Google Maps data

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

An artist in Berlin generated a virtual traffic jam by only using a wagon and a pile of phones to show how we take data for granted without considering it that it might be manipulated.

According to Motherboard, an online tech news website by Vice, Simon Wreckert was able to disrupt real traffic in Berlin, by faking data using 99 Android phones. He rented the phones as well as 99 sim cards, in order to make each appear as unique users to Google Maps. He then put them in a small wagon and walked down some streets at a leisurely pace around Berlin.

Because Google Maps saw the phones as 99 individual vehicles, it showed the street as congested. Drivers using Google Maps users navigating through the city saw a bold red line indicating that the road was heavily congested even though it was just Wreckert pulling his wagon of phones.

In the video, Weckert can be seen walking down nearly empty streets pulling his wagon full of phones. The video also shows the corresponding "congestion" he is creating on Google Maps.

Wreckert noted that his action could divert traffic and cause real traffic jams in other places.

"By transporting the smartphones in the street I'm able to generate virtual traffic which will navigate cars on another route. Ironically, that can generate a real traffic jam somewhere else in the city." Wreckert told Motherboard

According to Motherboard, the art installation revealed how data that most assume to be objective, can actually be biased.

"In this process it is pointing out the fact that we are highly focused on the data and tent to see them as objective, unambiguous, and interpretation free. In doing so, a blindness arises against the processes that data generates and the assumption that numbers speak for themselves. Not only the collection of data provides an interpretative scope, but also computing processes allows further interpretations," " Wreckert told Motherboard.

The "Google Maps Hacks by Simon Weckert" was posted to YouTube on Feb 1 and already has over a million views.

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