Google search for 'Vestal High School' sends users to the wrong - WBNG.com: Binghamton-area News, Weather, Sports

Google search for 'Vestal High School' sends users to the wrong place

Posted: Updated:

3 P.M. WEDNESDAY UPDATE:

According to Broome-Tioga BOCES, "the Google website situation as it pertained to the Vestal High School has been corrected."

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11 P.M. UPDATE:

VESTAL (WBNG) -- School officials said they are frustrated with how Google handled the situation. 

The South Central Regional Information Center (SCRIC) handles information technology services to 50 school districts and three BOCES centers in the south central region of New York State. Multiple staff members have been working with Google to address this issue.

When a business or service is searched on Google Maps, the hours of operation, phone number and its website may come up. You may notice the "Suggest An Edit" option. This lets anyone suggest a change to the business or service. If the organization claims itself to Google, it will get alerts if edits are suggested to change the information that appears. If the organization does not claim itself to Google, information may be changed, like a website.

SCRIC, which provides services to the Vestal School District, said Vestal schools, and many districts weren't claimed prior to Tuesday. Now, the schools that SCRIC serves, including the ones in the Southern Tier, are making sure that none of its information can be altered. 

"It comes back to being as proactive as we can, so claiming the businesses, paying attention to what's going on, watching our dashboards, watching for suggested edits," said SCRIC IT Coordinator, Philip Sage. "Making sure we have a plan or an understanding of what needs to happen if something like this happens again, because unless something changes with Google maps in the way that works I imagine somewhere that it will happen again."

Google did release this statement to 12 News: 

"We’re heavily invested in empowering users to contribute their local knowledge to Google products and services. Users can use the "suggest an edit" tool to update business listing information. Business owners and organization administrators can add or claim their listing (for free) to receive email notifications about changes to their listing to help them keep their info up to date. Notifications range from whether a business is marked as permanently closed to whether the phone number has been changed, and more.  Spammers and others with negative intent are a problem for consumers, businesses and technology companies that provide local business information. We use manual and automated systems to detect for spam and fraud, but we tend not to share details behind our processes so as not to tip off those with bad intent."

Sage urges other schools, businesses and organizations to claim their information to Google, so if someone tries to 'Suggest An Edit," the business or school will be notified. 

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1:35 P.M. UPDATE:

VESTAL (WBNG) -- The Vestal Central School District released the following update Tuesday afternoon:

Vestal Central School District’s Information Technology department has made countless attempts on June 11 and 12 to have Google.com correct an errant browser search connecting users to an inappropriate website when “Vestal High School” is entered into the search field.

Google confirmed with Broome-Tioga BOCES IT services yesterday that the situation would be corrected by 4 p.m. that date. When contacted again this morning, another person at business.google.com claimed that the issue would be taken care of by 9:30 a.m. on June 12. 

As the situation is out of the district’s control, district officials have filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau regarding Google.com’s inability to rectify such an offensive and unacceptable search result.

To protect other businesses and entities out there who may also be vulnerable to this type of malicious attack, Broome-Tioga BOCES IT experts suggest that you follow the steps to claim your domains on Google.com. 

Google did not immediately respond to our request for a comment.

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11:15 A.M.

VESTAL (WBNG) -- The Vestal Central School District on Tuesday acknowledged that Google searches for "Vestal High School" were directing users to an inappropriate website.

On the school district's website, officials wrote the issue has been addressed with Google and the incorrect link should be disabled shortly. 

"Thank you for your concern," the district wrote.

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