A professor from the University of Pennsylvania recently revealed on Twitter that a Google Maps Street View vehicle parked outside of the Philadelphia Convention Center was actually a surveillance car for the Philadelphia Police Department.
Professor Matt Blaze, who teaches computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania found the mysterious SUV parked underneath the tunnel of the Philadelphia Convention Center, which is one of the locations of the upcoming Democratic National Convention.
WTF? Pennsylvania State Police license plate reader SUV camouflaged as Google Street View vehicle. pic.twitter.com/0z4yo2rVoR
— matt blaze (@mattblaze) May 11, 2016
After Blaze questioned the unusual Google Maps branding on the side of the large SUV, he examined the vehicle and found a placard that revealed the car to be owned by the City of Philadelphia. He also found that the vehicle had a sophisticated license plate recognition camera mounted to its roof.
Blaze immediately posted his findings to Twitter, where they received significant attention. The Pennsylvania State Police quickly denied the vehicle was from their fleet but confirmed that it was a law enforcement vehicle. A spokesperson from the Philadelphia Police Department claimed in a statement that the vehicle was from their fleet, and that the placement of the Google Maps branding was unauthorized:
We have been informed that this unmarked vehicle belongs to the police department; however, the placing of any particular decal on the vehicle was not approved through any chain of command. With that being said, once this was brought to our attention, it was ordered that the decals be removed immediately.
When asked for comment by Vice, a Google spokesperson confirmed that they are investigating the unlawful use of their Google Maps logo and may be willing to share their findings at the conclusion of the investigation.