Sex, Google, and the Interstate

Ahh, Google Maps. So large. So pretty. So…confusing. Or at least that’s the impression you get from this Yahoo! News story (the title’s too cute by half), in which a search for “brothels” in three ZIP Codes turned up “the University of Oregon’s history department in Eugene, Ore.; the Happy Ending bar in Manhattan; and the Abstinence Clearinghouse in Sioux Falls, S.D.”

Sound odd? If you know anything about the tech, it’s not too much of a surprise. See, where competitor Yahoo! (and others) has localized services built mainly from licensed yellow pages data, Google is trying to discern information directly from Web pages. You can see the difference when you do a search on Yahoo! Local for “pizza 60605“: the first 10 are obviously pizza joints. Do the same search on Google Local (which also powers Google Maps) and the #5 result is “Barry Personnel Resources Inc.” Why them? It’s not clear. (Google’s references don’t even contain the word “pizza.”)

But let’s get back to sex. See, the best part of the article was the reaction from one Leslee Unruh, abstinence maven:

Leslee Unruh, the president of Abstinence Clearinghouse, an organization that connects advocates of abstinence before marriage, was more than taken aback by the labeling of her office as a bawdyhouse. [jsp: a what?]

“This isn’t accidental,” she claimed. “I think this is deliberate. Abstinence is under fire, we’re under siege. Our opponents are trying to discredit the largest organization in the world that networks abstinence educators.”

Yes, the sex-crazed Googlites have targeted thriving Sioux Falls, S.D., for a takedown in their quest to get everyone laid — before marriage, natch. And worse, their campaign is getting noticed:

Unruh also said that while the “brothel” label was news to her, it explained some odd behavior she and others in her office have seen.

“We’ve been seeing some strange men stopping by the office,” she said. “They’re clearly looking for something. If they’re traveling and using Google, maybe they think we’re.” she said, but didn’t finish. “We’re right off the Interstate.”

Are all the best brothels off exit ramps? News to me. But I still think Leslee is being overly suspicious. After all, maybe these men “clearly looking for something” are just trying to score tickets for the Purity Ball!

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