Google Maps live traffic data has been temporarily blocked in Ukraine to safeguard users’ safety while the country is invaded by Russia.
The features highlight where there are traffic jams on roads and which shops and establishments are busy. It uses anonymized location data obtained from Android handsets. According to experts, such information could provide information into the invasion’s progress. Upon seeing odd “traffic bottlenecks” along the Ukrainian border on Google Maps; one open-source intelligence (OSINT) expert says he detected signs of the Russian invasion early last Thursday.
Professor Jerry Lewis of the Middlebury Institute; an OSINT expert, told Motherboard last week, “I believe we were the first people to see the invasion”. “We also noticed it in a traffic app.”
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To offer reliable information, this traffic data is usually combined with information from other sources. Officials were already looking into the location where traffic delays were detected outside of Ukraine last Thursday, for example, using satellite footage. The smartphone data was most likely collected from civilians who were stopped at roadblocks, rather than soldiers with Android phones.
Last week, OSINT investigator Lewis told Motherboard, “I think big data corporations often don’t want to face squarely how helpful their data might be.” “I mean when we do it, isn’t it cool?” It would be less cool if the Russians could accomplish anything comparable to, say, identifying a Ukrainian offensive.”
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