(DailyVantage.com) – Technology has increased so much over the past several decades. Although it remains useful in many ways, it does have its downsides. Take location services, for instance. If someone activates this feature or fails to turn it off, they leave themselves open to discovery and potential risk by disclosing their whereabouts. This ability was causing so much concern in Ukraine and Russia amid the ongoing conflict Google decided to disable map tools in the region.
Live Traffic Feature
One of Google’s map tools allows users to track live traffic anywhere in the world. While it comes in handy to judge road conditions and travel times, people used this feature to view Ukraine and Russia’s traffic maps for a much different reason — to gauge military action.
A professor at Middlebury Institute of International Studies, Jeffrey Lewis, posted screenshots on Twitter of a supposed “traffic jam” in the middle of the night. At first glance, it seems like a traffic jam, but in reality, it was a gathering of Russian military forces. Through the Live Traffic feature, Lewis identified Russian troops making their way towards Ukraine.
I have spent my entire career doing #OSINT and even I think it’s weird that we were able to see the first signs of the invasion using @googlemaps’s traffic layer. https://t.co/XdAnVQfFdp
— Dr. Jeffrey Lewis (@ArmsControlWonk) February 24, 2022
It’s easy to think of this as a nifty feature, and maybe millions of people across the world would find it interesting, but there’s a delicate problem: The same technology that tracks Russian forces can track Ukrainian forces as well. The app could give away gatherings of troops, where they meet for battle plans or reveal a location where forces plan to ambush incoming troops, inviting more trouble for both sides.
Additionally, it puts civilians at risk. Long lines of refugees seeking to evacuate may become inadvertent targets.
Often, location data shows how crowded an area might be. For example, many people use this feature to gauge wait times at their favorite restaurants or see how busy a supermarket is. In terms of the conflict in Ukraine, the availability of location data drew concerns that Russians might target crowded areas to make a greater impact with their attacks.
Disabling these features helps protect both sides of the aisle, though Google and Big Tech generally have taken the stance of protecting Ukrainians from Russia’s aggression. YouTube, Twitter and Meta have all taken steps to demonetize Russian-state media to prevent propaganda and false flags and cut off revenue avenues in concert with the US and European Union applying severe sanctions.
Although Google prevents most of the world from digitally seeing what’s going on in the regions, those still in Ukraine can still use turn-by-turn navigation systems, including traffic information.
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