Oops! Amazon's new online Yellow Pages pictures Rockefeller Ice Skating Rink as a bus|
By Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY
To bring its new online Yellow Pages to life, Amazon.com sent trucks outfitted with digital cameras to capture images of 20 million businesses. But in its preview stage, many of the pictures in the digital business directory aren't accurate.
While such institutions as San Francisco's Caffe Trieste, New York's Zabar's deli and Portland, Ore.'s Niketown are pictured correctly, many are not:
• The New York Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square is shown as Crowne Plaza. The Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink is a bus driving down the street. Nathan's Famous on Sixth Avenue is a subway station.
• In Los Angeles, Canter's Deli pops up as a furniture shop, and Clifton's Cafeteria as a pants store. The Sam Ash music store on Sunset Boulevard is shown as a motel parking lot.
• An Atlanta Borders bookstore is pictured as a water fountain. In Seattle — Amazon's hometown — local favorite the Elephant Car Wash is displayed as a tire shop blocks away.
Udi Manber, CEO of Amazon's search unit A9, says the Yellow Pages product is in test mode. "We're doing the best we can to match everything correctly."
With A9, which launched late last year, Amazon is trying to take on Google and Yahoo. Its Yellow Pages are accessible through both A9 and a search tab on Amazon's home page.
Manber says a business owner can report an inaccurate display through a "Feedback" tab at the bottom of the main A9 page. The company will correct it.
Privacy groups debated the new feature last week. Among pictures of restaurants, delis and retail shops are abused women's shelters, abortion clinics and adult video stores — and maps on how to find them.
"I'm stunned they did this," says Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum. Dixon was an early critic of Google's Gmail program when it was introduced last year, with ads inserted in e-mails.
She says concerns about intrusions into e-mail pale in comparison "to having a person hiding from an abusive situation in a location that's outed with a photograph on the Internet."
Amazon says it is working to find and eliminate such photos. "We take privacy very seriously," Manber says.