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Article

4 Mar 2022

Author:
James Vincent, The Verge

Google disables Maps traffic data in Ukraine to protect citizens during Russian military invasion

Canva

Google disables Maps traffic data in Ukraine to protect citizens, The Verge, 28 February 2022

Google has temporarily disabled live traffic features offered by Google Maps in Ukraine to protect users’ safety as the country is invaded by neighbouring Russia...

Experts say such data could offer insight into the progress of the invasion. One...expert said he saw signs of the Russian invasion early last Thursday after spotting unusual “traffic jams” at the Ukrainian border on Google Maps...

Google said the decision to disable these features was made to protect local users’ safety after consultation with Ukrainian authorities...The features have been disabled from global access, but Google says live traffic information will still be available to drivers using turn-by-turn navigation features in the region...

With...location data, information shared in warzones via social media has become a vital tool for open-source investigators, journalists, and others.

Usually, this data has to be combined with other sources to provide reliable info. In the case of the traffic jams spotted outside of Ukraine last Thursday, for example, investigators were already examining the area using satellite imagery. The smartphone data itself probably come from civilians stopped at roadblocks, not soldiers using Android phones.

“I think big data companies often don’t want to face squarely how useful their data can be,” OSINT investigator Lewis told Motherboard last week. “I mean, it’s cool when we do it, right? It’s maybe less cool if the Russians were able to do something similar to, you know, spotting an offensive from Ukranians.”

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