The popular electronic gadget blog Engadget reports that AT&T has sued Verizon over its "There's a Map for That" ads. The print and television commercial, which you watch here, centers around revealing how much more 3G coverage Verizon has, here through some hovering red versus blue colored maps of the US (which in effect look somehow similar to the colors used to distinguish Democratic and Republican states, but I guess that was not really intended) .
The complaint seems to focus about the choice of the white or blank background in the two different 3G coverage maps, which should to be understood to denote "no coverage" in the Verizon map, but actually should mean something else in the AT&T map, as there still exist AT&T's 2.5G/EDGE coverage in most of those "blank" areas. According to AT&T, customers are misled to believe there is "no" coverage at all, which is true for Verizon, but not for AT&T.
While the maps show the correct data (as all textual labels and the verbal explanation mention 3G only), there is a story behind the data that is not told. Something we can learn from as data visualizers?
Some quotes from the official complaint:
"Verizon displayed a '3G' coverage map attributed to AT&T with large swaths of white or blank areas (or no coverage) to bolster its misleading message that customers with AT&T service are 'out of touch' in large parts of the United States" (Verizon then removed the words "out of touch" from all advertising).
"By continuing to include a '3G' coverage map in its advertisement, Verizon is still conveying the message that AT&T has no coverage in the white or blank space included in the maps, and thus AT&T customers cannot use their wireles devices in large portions of the United States. ... The fact that customers are being misled by the blank and white space on the maps is not surprising as Verizon, in its own coverage maps, uses white space to inform consumers that no coverage of any kind exists."