A years-old prank by Afghan university students has made its way into Apple Maps.
The Wall Street Journal‘s Kabul bureau chief Yaroslav Trofimov was browsing Kabul in Apple’s Maps app when he noticed something odd. It showed a street not far from him called “Bad Monkey.” Another street had the name of “Mojo Way.” A third: “Hillbilly Hameed.” Being extremely familiar with Afghanistan’s capital, Trofimov was sure these street names couldn’t be legitimate ones so he tweeted his finds with the hashtag #TooGoodToBeTrue.
But as the UN Dispatch explains, these street names were too good to be true. In fact, they were pranks pulled off by Afghan university students years earlier when they were added to Kabul’s OpenStreetMap (OSM) entry.
So why are they in Apple’s Maps in 2013? Because Apple had copied a lot of old OpenStreetMap’s data in its entirety, apparently without fact-checking to address pranks like these. As Kate Chapman, Indonesia-based director of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, told UN Dispatch:
“The old maps were created by a small group of Afghan university students and mapping enthusiasts who assigned prankish fake names to streets that lacked official names or were subjects of naming disputes due to decades of overlapping conflicts. Eventually, these digital cartographers replaced most of the fake street names with the names most commonly used by locals, or simply removed them and left the streets nameless.
The issue is that Apple took an old snapshot of the OpenStreetMap data and hasn’t updated it since, so things like ‘personal’ street names are in there, even if they have been fixed since. The fact that they don’t update the data shows that the incentive for people to improve the map just isn’t going to be there.”
I’ve verified the prank street names are still there as of the time of this writing even though they have been fixed on OpenStreetMap. However, as UN Dispatch points out, Apple doesn’t have a lot of incentive to fix street names in an area where not many people use iPhones.