San Francisco: Tech giant Google has temporarily disabled its Maps’ live traffic data in Ukraine to protect users as the country faces Russian invasion, media reports said on Monday.
It is not known when exactly Google disabled the Maps live traffic data and what prompted the move, VICE World News reported.
It’s also not clear whether Google has ever disabled these features during previous conflicts or wars.
“Google said only that it had taken the action for the safety of local Ukrainian communities following consultations with sources including regional authorities,” the report said.
However, the move seems to come after reports claimed that people around the world were using the service to track the movements of troops and civilians during the Russian invasion.
The data works by incorporating location and speed information from smartphones with the app, then using it to show in real-time how dense traffic conditions are in certain places, or how busy those areas are overall.
Google’s announcement came just a day after the Ukrainian government called on “all road organisations, territorial communities, (and) local authorities to immediately start dismantling road signs nearby”.
“Dismantling road signs on all roads of the country. Priority #1 – indicators, names of settlements. Collected signs are handed over to local authorities and roadmen,” Ukravtodor, the government agency responsible for Ukraine’s national road system, wrote in a Facebook post.
“The enemy has a pathetic connection, they don’t orientate the area. Let’s help them go straight to hell.”
Experts had previously flagged the potential for Google’s data to be exploited by invading Russian forces, who could theoretically use the Maps traffic function to monitor Ukrainian troops and notice when they’re on the move, the report said.
Several social media platforms have blocked Russian media after President Vladimir Putin launched an attack into Ukraine last week.
Last weekend, Meta (formerly Facebook) had prohibited Russian state media from running ads or monetising on its platform anywhere in the world.
The company has also blocked access to several Russian state-controlled accounts in Ukraine.
Google-owned YouTube has also announced it is temporarily halting the ability of a number of Russian channels, including state-sponsored RT, to monetise their content on the platform.
Earlier, Russia also blocked Twitter to stifle the flow of information as its invasion of Ukraine escalates.