Monday, June 18, 2012

Did Google Get Hacked?

While I strive to write about things you might not otherwise read about, I've never had a "breaking news" story.  While preparing for today's post, however, I came across what I believe to be a hack at Google.  If it's not a hack, it's surely a mistake.  If not a mistake, it's at least worth discussing.

Google makes available a series of icons for mapping with Google Fusion tables.  There are about 200 icons that have names like "orange_blank" or "bars".  You can view all the default icons here by clicking visualize ->map.

Cool huh?  I thought so too.

In general the icons are pretty helpful.  I was surprised to discover that the icon for "temple_ip" appears to be a swastika.  Take a look:

I was looking at the symbols just a few days ago and didn't notice this, which leads me to believe it's not supposed to be there.  That and the fact that it's incredibly distasteful - a not-often-employed trait for Google.  I know the swastika is still used a lot to symbolize positive things, but it still seems strange that it is a featured icon image for Google.  I left a comment; we'll see what happens!

So there's that. A bit disturbing, hopefully it will be fixed soon. Or maybe I'm just missing something.  Feel free to let me know in the comment section!

Less "breaking" yet far more "exciting" is the news that the Fund For Peace has released its 2012 failed states index which Foreign Policy distributes.  I've written about the index before but I'm hoping to use their data, along with my new knowledge of Google Fusion Tables and Google Maps to make a cool map or two.  It won't be as cool as this one, but it'll be something I created :)  That will be next week, unless more news breaks on the infamous Google swastika.


  1. Look up "Swastika" on wikipedia - it's use predates Nazi Germany. It is commonly used in Hindu/Buddhist religions art - centuries before it was adopted by the Nazi party.

    I remember begin in Japan in 1998 and the Lonely Plan guide book used the swastika to represent a Buddhist shrine, as to a Torii for a Shinto shrine (these are the gate or arch shapes - often seen painted in red).

    If you jump to this google map url ( ) you will see the swastika used in context.

  2. Generic tech- I'm certainly aware of other uses of the swastika. I'm still surprised that, with a very small set of symbols, Google seems to have gone out of their way to use the swastika. Despite its other affiliations it is still widely recognized as a symbol of the Nazis and their ideologies. It's not wrong for it to be used, but to me it's surprising to be featured by google. Have they used the swastika in one of their doodles? They may have, but I don't recall one. If they haven't, why haven't they?

  3. My point is that it is a standard map icon - Lonely planet use it in their guide books, Google use in in their maps of Japan.

    There are large part of the world where the symbol as presented wound not be immediately associated with mid-20th century Germany.

    If it was a black swastika in a white circle in a red background I would join you in outrage. This two tone white-orange on a clear background, in the reverse form to that used by the Nazis. I think this is very different, and quite appropriate to be used on a map.


  4. Yes... Google uses it in their maps of Japan. It is a popular symbol in the east and extremely stigmatized in the west - which is why it is NOT used in Google's maps of western countries. That is why I find it surprising that it is a default symbol. The default symbols don't even have an "H" for hospital, a staple of almost any road map in the US AND included in Google Maps.

    I'm not outraged, just surprised. It's all fascinating stuff!

  5. It's probably just a case of an uneven pace of adoption of different sets of map symbols. This is definitely a standard map symbol in Asia, and one of the main ones. For example, the Taipei City metro system also uses it on their station area maps to indicate a religious institution.

    And as Generic Technologist pointed out, this isn't the same swastika used by Nazi Germany. Theirs faced the opposite direction, was displayed at a 45-degree angle, and was closely associated symbolically with the color black. This may seem insignificant to Westerners with little experience in Asia, but once you've been exposed to both the difference becomes more obvious.

    Evan C.

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