Google Maps disables live-traffic feature for Ukraine after reports it was being used to track ground activity during Russian invasion

Advertisement
Google Maps disables live-traffic feature for Ukraine after reports it was being used to track ground activity during Russian invasion
This photograph taken on February 27, 2022 shows a Russian Armoured personnel carrier (APC) burning next to unidentified soldier's body during fight with the Ukrainian armed forces in KHARKIV.Seregy Bobok/AFP via Getty Images
  • Google has temporarily disabled a feature that tracks live traffic in Ukraine.
  • The tool was being used by some to detect military operations there following Russia's invasion.
Advertisement

Google has temporarily switched off some of its mapping features in Ukraine, after learning that the tools used to provide live updates about traffic were being used to track activity at reported sites of Russian attacks in the country.

Google Maps' live traffic feature works by siphoning data from smartphones with the app installed, derived in real-time from users who have their location services. The feature can then analyze how many cars there are as well as the speed they're travelling at.

The company confirmed the move to VICE World News, telling the publication that it disabled live traffic data in Maps for Ukraine in order to prioritize the safety of Ukrainians after speaking with local authorities. Google did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment made outside of normal working hours.

Complimentary Tech Event
Discover the future of SaaS in India
The 6-part video series will capture the vision of Indian SaaS leaders and highlight the potential for the sector in the decades to come.25th Aug, 2022 Starts at 04:00 PM (40 mins)Register Now
Our Speakers
Dan Sheeran
Sandeep Gupta

The feature was being used by some to detect military operations there.

One such observer was Jeffrey Lewis, a nonproliferation professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California, who said he witnessed an attack in the conflict even before Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his country's military operations there last week.

Advertisement

Lewis previously told Insider that he believes him and his team "were the first people to identify that the invasion was underway."

Google's decision to disable the feature Lewis and others had used to witness the invasion comes a day after the Ukrainian highways agency called on its citizens to dismantle road signs.

Intended to confuse Russian troops, the agency made its announcement on Facebook, writing, "The enemy has a pathetic connection [direction], they do not focus on the terrain. Let's help them get straight to hell."

Since the conflict began, Google has made other moves as a response. Google-owned YouTube blocked Russian-owned and Russia-funded media companies from monetizing, with Google soon following suit to block the same types of companies from monetizing their websites, apps, and videos.

{{}}