How Cartographers for the U.S. Military Inadvertently Created a House of Horrors in South Africa

PoppieChoffel

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#1
Long read, but quite fascinating. Link to full article here.

The visitors started coming in 2013. The first one who came and refused to leave until he was let inside was a private investigator named Roderick. He was looking for an abducted girl, and he was convinced she was in the house.

John S. and his mother Ann live in the house, which is in Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa and next to Johannesburg. They had not abducted anyone, so they called the police and asked for an officer to come over. Roderick and the officer went through the home room by room, looking into cupboards and under beds for the missing girl. Roderick claimed to have used a “professional” tracking device “that could not be wrong,” but the girl wasn’t there.

This was not an unusual occurrence. John, 39, and Ann, 73, were accustomed to strangers turning up at their door accusing them of crimes; the visitors would usually pull up maps on their smartphones that pointed at John and Ann’s backyard as a hotbed of criminal activity.
 

Gordon_R

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#3
TL;DR

The thing about IP mapping that many people don’t realize (and I wish they would, since I wrote two huge stories about it in 2016) is that it is not an exact science. Sometimes an IP address can be mapped to a house—you can try to map your own IP address here—but in general, an IP address, at its most precise, just indicates what city and state a device is in. At itsleast precise, it simply reveals what country a device is connecting to the internet from.

But computer systems don’t deal well with abstract concepts like “city,” “state,” and “country,” so MaxMind offers up a specific latitude and longitude for every IP address in its databases (including its free, widely-used, open-source database). Along with the IP address and its coordinates is another entry called the “accuracy radius.”
 

chrisc

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#5
So not buried in the back garden, as in Rillington Place in England?

The mind boggles at the complexity of the situation, how the error developed and whether or not the responsible parties are really attempting to fix is
 
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3WA

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#8
I am sure a genuine internet scammer would pay top dollar for this place.
 

PoppieChoffel

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#9
In a nutshell, the US military branch responsible for providing co-ordinates for city centers globally placed the one for Pretoria in this guys back yard, which several ISP's /SP's use as an IP location point for over millions of users... so somebody posts $*** online / threatens using internet etc, people go and "trace" the IP it originated from for location, and it points to his house. Final straw to force him to seek help to sort it out is a local company suing him for harassment on FB, because the IP of the poster points to his physical address.
 

eg2505

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#10
interesting, wonder how many people pass by the place looking for drugs/hookers/guns ect...
 

Compton_effect

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#14
Buy house. Board up windows. Hire one guy to deliver cages filled with chickens to it.
Hire another guy to smuggle the chickens out without anyone noticing.
 

ToxicBunny

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#17
Yes the article mentions two other cases. But it is still traumatising for the people. Doesn't matter how many people go through it.
I actually think this problem exists for all. Countries and cities... I wouldn't necessarily say traumatic.. More just highly annoying...
 

PoppieChoffel

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#18
I actually think this problem exists for all. Countries and cities... I wouldn't necessarily say traumatic.. More just highly annoying...
The guy this particular article is about was being sued by a local company for extreme harassment on Facebook by an anonymous / fictitious poster, that then traced back to his location because of the IP information. I wouldn't call that just "highly annoying".

*edited to elaborate re FB posts
 
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