A new mobile app from Google Maps is hitting a little too close to home for some users: The app, unveiled Thursday exclusively for Android users in the U.S., is called the Google Maps Floor Plan Marker. And the mouthful of a name belies a very simple premise: Google wants business owners to begin uploading detailed floor plans of the interiors of their “venues” so that anyone can see them on Google Maps.
As Google wrote in a blog post describing the new app:
The information you choose to submit will ultimately help visitors and customers more quickly and easily orient themselves, see where they are and what’s around them. Customers will even be able to see which floor they’re on in buildings with multiple floors, and the map will automatically update to the right floor if they go up or down a level!
The app comes on the heels of Google’s previously announced effort to take its popular Google Maps product indoors. In November 2011, Google announced that it had begun adding interiors of popular venues such as airports, shopping malls and stores to the places that users can see from a bird’s eye view using Google Maps.
But now, Google is seeking to refine and add more detail to those maps, as well as add others, by crowdsourcing the work to Android smartphone owners.
To be clear, the app will only allow those who have already “uploaded a floor plan through the Google Maps Floor Plans tool” to improve the detail of their interiors.
Nonetheless, the app sparked some concern among a few members of NY Tech Meetup, an informal gathering of New York City’s tech companies that meets monthly to hear startup pitches. In an email thread between members of the group on Friday, some of them voiced their concerns:
“Yeah this is not GOOD,” wrote one NY Tech Meetup member. “Can’t wait for someone to upload a bank’s blue prints.”
“First impression is the US Gov’t will throw a fit over terrorists having access to building plans,” wrote another.
Others laughed the concerns off, “Yeah, bank robberies will surely skyrocket,” wrote one member who originally posted the maps.
The concern and cavalier dismissals echo the responses to “Please Rob Me,” a website that became a media sensation in 2010 by repurposing Foursquare location data to showcase when exactly users left their houses, and thus, left them open to burglars.
Despite that, Foursquare continues to grow in popularity, and there haven’t been any reports of a surge in break-ins as a result.
Still, with businesses in dense cities like New York commonly sharing buildings with, or being in close proximity to, residences, there may be some validity to the concerns over Google’s latest app.