Tech tourism

Visit the Kansas farm that accidentally became the digital center of the U.S.

Joyce Taylor’s family has owned a plot of land near Wichita, Kansas for over 100 years. Now 82, she grew up in a farmhouse on the property, and remembers when the home first got electricity and an indoor bathroom.

In a rural, remote area, it was a peaceful and quiet place—until the last decade. In recent years, Taylor and the family to whom she rented the farmhouse have been visited by all kinds of mysterious trouble. They’ve been visited and called by federal marshals, IRS collectors, police officers and angry strangers, accusing them of being identity thieves, spammers, scammers, child pornographers, and fraudsters.

They didn’t know why until I called them earlier this year and told them this story: The home’s front yard had been designated as the digital center of the United States by a widely used IP mapping company, Maxmind, which specializes in geolocating devices based on their IP addresses. Any time the company couldn’t figure out exactly where a device was located, and knew only that it was in the U.S., it would point at the Taylor farmhouse’s front yard, ultimately leading to 660 million devices being mapped to the location. Some of which were used to do very bad things.

After writing the story, I went to meet Joyce Taylor in person. For law enforcement and people on the internet, who assumed the mapping company was giving them credible information, Taylor and her tenants were the epitome of evil. If you watch the video, you’ll find out just how deceptive inaccurate data can be for understanding what’s happening in the real world.

And yes, the tenants at the farm have sued the company.