Restaurant owner sues Google for Maps hack

legal hammer

A Washington DC-based retaurant was forced to shut down after its Google Maps listing was hacked to change its opening hours.

The Serbian Crown restaurant, owned by 74-year-old Rene Bertagna, was a popular small neighbourhood restaurant, but in early 2012, people stopped coming through the doors on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. In fact, business reduced by 75 per cent and the owner had no idea why until a customer questioned why the joint was closed over the weekend.

Bertagna was forced to close the business down after takings plummeted and even his accountant couldn't fix the listings. Although the restaurateur did eventually take on an internet marketer who managed to correct the Google Maps information, it was too late to save the restaurant's finances and after a number of staff layoffs, it was forced to close its doors after 40-years in business.

Although content can be added and changed by anyone with a Google+ account, including marking companies as permanently closed, changing phone numbers or deleting them altogether, businesses can claim their listings too.

Bertagna is now suing Google because he believes the company should seek verification from business owners should it detect any changes to local business listings.

In the US, crowdsourced websites such as Google Maps are immune from prosecution because the content is not provided by the company, but by users of the website or service.

Google's lawyers said in a statement: "The Serbian Crown should not be permitted to vex Google or this court with such meritless claims."

In January, Google's Maps listings were questioned after thousands of hotel listings were hijacked, with their website addresses change to redirect to a third party hotel booking site.

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.