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yellow pages with pictures
2005-01-31

Last week, Amazon's A9 search unit came out with their new Yellow Pages service which has actual ground level pictures of the storefronts in 10 cities across the US. Its pretty cool, at least in theory, but there are quite a few errors in the data, for instance my first search was for Memphis Minnie's, my favorite local BBQ place, turned up a picture of a boarded up building a block away. Other things I tried didn't really have any good picture, or turned up just pictures of intersections. If you click through to the Amazon page, however, you can suggest a better picture, which is a cool. The whole concept of the 'yellow pages' having a full amazon page where you can post reviews and feedback is definitely cool, and adds to the existing service where you can find restaurant menu's on amazon as well. On the other hand, the a9.com interface is apparently too "complicated" and "magic", since it basically wouldn't work on my treo when I tried to show it to some people, and forwarding the url didn't help much either (http://a9.com/memphis obviously doesn't include much information, such as the location you searching or what "modules" are enabled, so the person won't get the local search results for my section of SF).

There is an article on USA Today about the service, which brings up some "privacy" concerns that the service works for "abused women's shelters, abortion clinics and adult video stores". Now, if there are actually recognizable pictures of people in the pictures of those places... I can see there is a privacy implication, but that's not what the article mentions as a complaint. They point out complaints about those places being in the data at all. Now, are we trying to hide abused women's shelters from abused women? Is the security of these places based on needing to know the secret handshake or the right person to find them? That hardly sounds like a real solution. Its the off-line equivalent of "securing" your content by having it on a "secret" url and telling people not to link to it or share it with others. Ie, it doesn't work. Hopefully this is just a case of sloppy reporting, since the partial quote they include from Pam Dixon implies the problem of the photograph containing a picture of the abused women, and not the location (though as quoted, its still not clear).


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