Claim Of Using GPS Tracking To Prank Google Street View Car In Berlin Is Prank

According to F.A.T, Free Art and Technology Lab based out of Germany, they have pranked a Google Street View car by installing a GPS tracking device to it while it was parked outside Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, Germany. They claim that they were able to somehow attach a tracking device or a GPS cell phone to the car and then receive updates every 2 minutes about the location of the vehicle. They even made a map of the whole think, posting it on their website.

According to some reports, there were even people who used the information displayed on the website to track down the car and perform obscene gestures, shout profanity, or display their private parts in the general direction of the vehicle.

This story has received insane amounts of media attention on the internet and has even gotten a mention of a few TV channels as well, including G4TV:

F.A.T Google Tracking Prank

If one looks carefully at the evidence that is presented on the F.A.T website I think that you will can come to the conclusion that they did not actually track a Google Street View Car with GPS, but instead they merely made a fake one and drove it around like it was from Google and filmed funny and obscene episodes to shame the Internet Giant.

My entire case rests entirely on the their most recent post about how to build a fake Google Street View car. In it, they display the following two pictures (the one on the left is a photo of an actual Google Street View car and the one on the right is of their fake car):

Google Street View Car OriginalGoogle Street View Car Fake
Original Google Street View CarFake Google Street View Car

Let me point out some of the major differences between these two cars – it will become very important later. The first difference is the size of the magnet on the side of the door. The real car has a small magnet while the fake one has a large magnet that takes up most of the door.

The second, and probably more important difference between the two is the camera and GPS tracking apparatus on the top of the car. I have highlighted some of the differences in the pictures below:

Top of Original Google Street View CarTop of Fake Google Street View Car
Top of Original Google Street View CarTop of Fake Google Street View Car

Hopefully my skillfully crafted circles and arrows highlight the points of difference enough that I won’t have to spend too much time showing how these are different.

Now here is some footage of the people at F.A.T pranking what they claim to be a Google Street View car. This one is supposedly of a driver drinking while driving:

This is supposedly of a driver picking someone up who is urinating in public:

As you can see in these videos, the car is obviously the fake one created by F.A.T. If the sign on the side of the car is not enough evidence then perhaps taking a closer look at the GPS tracking and camera apparatus located on the top will reveal that it is in fact the fake tracker created by the F.A.T group.

Add to this the information found in this post, Pantless Germans Flash Google Street View Car, and I am led strongly to believe that the whole claim of GPS tracking one of these cars was completely false. I did not include this video because it does have some profanity that could be objectionable to some people, but in the post they say this:

Hot off the press. See also Gizmodo, BuzzFeed, CrunchGear, Reddit, BasicThinking, BoingBoing. Stay tuned for more Google Street View car tracking at

That last sentence seems to indicate to me that they are representing this as video taken from the GPS tracking of the car, when it is obviously not. The video is clearly of the fake car that F.A.T created.

Thus, I think it can be clearly seen that their claim is false and that the claim itself is the actual prank. The videos are made in an attempt to ‘eff Google’ and make them look bad.

If you are interested in learning some more about this group, there is a little blurb from their about page:

The Free Art and Technology Lab is an organization dedicated to enriching the public domain through the research and development of creative technologies and media. The entire FAT network of artists, engineers, scientists, lawyers, musicians and Bornas are committed to supporting open values and the public domain through the use of emerging open licenses, support for open entrepreneurship and the admonishment of secrecy, copyright monopolies and patents.

So in the final analysis it seems like F.A.T. just wanted to make Google look bad and advanced their false claim of GPS tracking a Street View Car in an attempt to bring attention to their cause. I certainly don’t blame them for their attempt, but it is important that we all see what they actually accomplished.

Feel free to check the sources yourself at: Free Art and Technology

A Lil’ Bit O’ GPS Humor

Here is a little bit of GPS humor thanks to one Tim Hawkins, a comedian who likes to use clean humor and “cover” songs in his sketches. If you have not heard about him, he is really funny. Last night my wife and I were cracking up watching a ton of his videos on YouTube. I have included some of his other videos below that really don’t have anything to do with GPS, but they are really funny (or at least I think so). So without further ado, Tim Hawkins:

It is pretty nice to have a GPS tell you exactly where to go – but it would be even nicer if it could help married men read their wife’s mind!

This next one is a good little ditty about Chik Fil-a and demonstrates his love for the “cover” song:

This one made me want to pee my pants:

In all, Tim Hawkins does a pretty good job of making you laugh and keeping it clean. Great comedian!

Art And GPS Tracking

Some say that beauty is in the eye of beholder.  While I disagree 100% with this view of aesthetics, I do recognize that certain individuals see beauty where others are blind to it in certain works of art.  This happens with modern Cubism just as much as it does with the classic sculptures of antiquity.  Some will call one art while rejecting the other as a valid expression of beauty.  The same thing is going to happen is art generated by using a GPS tracking device.

Some laugh at the notion that use of GPS as your paint and the earth as your canvas can be classified as art.  One site even lets you create what it calls “Unimpressive GPS Art” – mocking the notion that this medium can communicate anything useful or beautiful to humanity.   The site utilizes a flash app that lets you “draw” a faux piece of art that resembles something that might have been created using a portable GPS unit. To be honest, the app isn’t that great but it does do a pretty good job at poking fun at this artistic expression.

Self Portrait GPS Tracking ArtHowever, it does appear that there is a real movement that uses GPS to create art.  It even has a formal name, locative art, and has real life artists who actually do locative art.  One such artist, by the name of Antti Laitinen, made the image found to the right by drawing his face on a map and then with nothing but a compass and the map to get his bearings trying to actually follow the chart that he plotted.  A GPS tracking device was in his backpack logging all of his activity.

It is my understanding that the image to the right is also a composite of no less than 6 different images.  Some of the single tracks look a little sparse, but when they are combined together you obviously get a much better picture of the artists.

But with all art, we have to ask the question: What does this mean?  Who do GPS tracking art?  What makes it significant?  What makes it beautiful?

I think for starters we have to say that this has yet to fully been seen.  Drew Hemmet, writing in 2004, had this to say about this budding art from:

A coherent discourse around locative art is only starting to emerge, and it is common to find different artists speak of or engage in a similar set of interests, without referencing other works in the field or contextualising their own practice. These points illustrate not a defect or shortcoming but that the locative project is in a condition of emergence, an embryonic state in which everything is still up for grabs, a zone of consistency yet to emerge. As an emergent practice locative art – like locative media generally – is simultaneously opening up new ways of engaging in the world and mapping its own domain.

While the boundaries of this art form are still being explored by artists, it does appear that a basic understanding of GPS art as a way to engage the world, maps, and locality in new and interesting ways has already become established.  This art is interesting because it says something about the way we move about the world – that our physical movements can have a form and a beauty that is their own.

Some GPS tracking artist have taken to using logs of their travels as forms of self-expression, displaying the maps of their existence as a form of self-knowledge and self-definition.  Others have taken to using the art form to actually try and represent actual shapes or images – such as the self-portrait we found above.  While a self portrait is almost always a form of self expression, it could just as easily have been a reproduction of the Mona Lisa or of Whistler’s Mother – both of which would be a sort of expression of art in space.

While you personally might not think that this type of GPS tracking is an art form, I think that there is a beauty to it if you let yourself think about what this type of thing says about what it means to be human in the space where we live.