Google Maps over the weekend temporarily disabled tools offering live information about traffic conditions and how busy stores and restaurants are in Ukraine. The move comes after Russian forces invaded the eastern European country last Thursday. 

The decision was apparently made to protect Ukrainians after consultation with the nation’s regional authorities, as previously reported by Reuters and Vice.

The feature uses location data gathered anonymously from Android devices.

It removes the features from global access – if you hover above Ukraine with the traffic layer activated, you’ll see it shows traffic conditions in surrounding countries and cuts off in Ukraine.

Google says live traffic information will still be available to drivers using turn-by-turn navigation features in the region. It’s not clear if Google has ever disabled these features during previous conflicts or wars.

Location data collected by mapping services often offer these sorts of unexpected insights.

Usually, this data has to be combined with other sources to provide reliable info.

“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 Ukrainians.”

Author