By Joshua Glenn
LATE LAST MONTH, the Internet search company Google announced it would share its cutting-edge Google Maps technology with 'outside Web developers.' That is to say, hackers, who've been using the online cartographic service to create unauthorized interactive maps of everything from cheap nationwide gas prices to local street crime ever since Google's speedy, responsive service was launched in February.
Google had originally envisioned people using its European-style streetmaps and creepily close-up satellite images to size up neighborhoods where an apartment was for rent, for example, or to check out a vacation spot's proximity to the beach. But civic-minded computer jockeys had other visions. Matching the latitude and longitude points from Google Maps (which provides virtual push-pin markers for physical addresses typed into a search field; see marker on map at right) with locations from police blotters, real estate listings, and other databases, they've created free searchable maps of crime in Chicago, sexual predators in Florida, and apartments for rent in New York, to cite just three examples.