Google is adding a label to Maps that lets people identify their business as being LGBTQ-plus-owned, joining Yelp, which has a similar label. While Google Maps has had labels like LGBTQ-friendly and Transgender Safe Space for years, the company says that the new business identity attribute will help people who choose to support diverse businesses and could help queer people find nearby communities.
Just like with Google’s other labels for Black-owned, Latino-owned, veteran-owned, and women-owned businesses, the LGBTQ-plus-owned label has to be added by the verified owner of the business profile. (It’s not like other Maps metadata, which can be added by community members.) The labels can show up throughout the Google Maps interface, and you can also search for them by typing in “LGBTQ-owned businesses,” for example.
As my former colleague Taylor Lyles pointed out in a 2020 story about Google rolling out a Black-owned label, there’s no obvious verification process for the attributes. Google’s help page for adding them doesn’t mention any extra steps for business owners beyond just adding the labels. While this may raise concerns that people could lie to game search results, it’s also hard to imagine an appropriate verification system for pretty much any identity. Google’s UI also makes it clear that it’s not verifying the info itself by saying that the label was added by the business.
The company also has some systems for dealing with some potential safety concerns. Its documentation for business identity attributes says that it has an abuse team to “swiftly” handle any harassment its system detects or that business owners report receiving because of their label. (For example, users leaving negative reviews because they don’t like the fact that a business is queer-owned.) That type of action won’t necessarily protect an owner or their business from physical harm — and given that anti-LGBTQ violence and legislation have been on the rise, according to Prism, that’s sadly not out of the question. But it’s still good to hear that Google’s thought of it, especially given its less than perfect track record for protecting queer creators in other parts of its business.