February 28, 2014
Earlier this week, Bryan Seely, a network engineer and one-time Marine, played me recordings of two phone calls (embedded below.) The calls were placed by unwitting citizens to the FBI office in San Francisco and to the Secret Service in Washington, D.C. Neither the callers nor the FBI or Secret Service personnel who answered the phone realized that Seely was secretly recording them. He used Google Maps to do it.
Yesterday, Gizmodo reported on how easy it was for Seely to spam Google Maps with fake listings. Seely has revealed to Valleywag a more troubling way to exploit the Google’s laissez-faire attitude toward verification—loopholes the international search megalith has known about for at least four years.
The callers that Seely recorded thought they were speaking directly to the government agencies because they looked up the telephone number on Google Maps. What they didn’t know was that Seely had set up fake listings for the San Francisco FBI office and Secret Service in Washington, D.C., displaying numbers that went to a phone account he set up rather than the federal offices. After Seely’s numbers received the calls, they were seamlessly forwarded to the real offices the callers were trying to reach, only now the audio of their conversations with real federal agents was being captured by Seely.