Google Maps is Renaming Entire Neighborhoods

Google is a powerful company, but did you know it can rename entire areas of a city, seemingly accidentally?

Jack Nicas, writing for the New York Times, outlines several instances this has happened. Here’s one:

For decades, the district south of downtown and alongside San Francisco Bay here was known as either Rincon Hill, South Beach or South of Market. This spring, it was suddenly rebranded on Google Maps to a name few had heard: the East Cut.

The peculiar moniker immediately spread digitally, from hotel sites to dating apps to Uber, which all use Google’s map data. The name soon spilled over into the physical world, too. Real-estate listings beckoned prospective tenants to the East Cut. And news organizations referred to the vicinity by that term.

The strange thing: it’s not clear where Google Maps even found the name “the East Cut,” but now it’s out there. The map changed reality.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, of course: mapmakers have unintentionally created towns in the past as part of a copyright scheme. John Green explains how in this video, and it’s crazy fascinating. Check it out:

Justin Pot is the News Editor for How-To Geek. He lives in Hillsboro, Oregon and runs the Hillsboro Signal, which offers local citizen journalism. Follow Justin on Twitter and Facebook, if you want. You don't have to.