The issue with Google needs to be fixed

An issue we reported on back in November has cropped up once more. Google is still listing Bennington locations as being in Woodford. Not even the Bennington Battle Monument — Which ironically commemorates a battle fought in another town in another state — is safe.

The issue is a little more serious that it sounds, what with Google and similar online services playing larger and larger roles in our daily lives with each passing day.

The biggest problem from our perspective is that someone not familiar with the area dialing 911 might give a dispatcher bad information if they consult Google and think they're in Woodford when they're really in Bennington.

The secondary problems are less life threatening, but concerning all the same. As Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Matt Harrington has pointed out, the Google problem might make it harder for potential home buyers to do accurate research. It might also confuse tourists and anyone having to do business with folks outside the area.

The problem appears to have something to do with Postal ZIP codes. Bennington and Woodford share a ZIP code and that looks to be what Google is going off from. The problem isn't unique to Bennington and Woodford. We found Sandgate and Arlington have the same problem, as do Searsburg and Wilmington to a degree. It's doubtful the problem is limited to Bennington County.

When we ran our November article on the topic, we managed to get a hold of someone from Google — Via email — and were told that the best thing to do would be to use the service's "suggest an edit" feature. As people who do a lot of Googling, we've been making corrections when we can. Harrington said his staff at the Chamber have been doing the same, but the changes aren't sticking.

Lynn Green, owner of the Four Chimneys Inn, is working with the Chamber to talk to the Attorney General's Office about the problem.

"We felt we didn't really have a voice (with Google), as the Chamber or as a town," Harrington said.

He's correct, and his comment speaks to a far greater problem than tourists thinking they're in Woodford when they're not.

Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, all of these services are used by millions, if not billions, of people and each one has had its share of customer service problems. YouTube content reviewers have complained about their videos being unfairly flagged for copyright infringement, Facebook finds itself being used as a platform for fake news, while it and Twitter have struggled to deal with online user-harassment.

Most of these services rely on automated systems to handle user complaints. If you thought dealing with the phone company's customer service people was a waste of time, you've never filed a complaint with YouTube, Google, or Facebook.

This isn't a minor annoyance, either. These web services are not toys. Many businesses rely on Google, Facebook, and Twitter to operate. Unlike our roads, water pipes, and utility lines, they're free, leaving users with little recourse when they don't work right.

Since we only seem to be growing more dependent on these services as time goes on, we may someday find ourselves completely at their mercy.


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