Google disables Maps live traffic in Ukraine following Russian invasion

The traffic data may have put Ukranians at risk.

Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Google is once again modifying its services in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The company has confirmed to Reuters and Vice World News that it temporarily disabled some live traffic data in Ukraine, including the general live traffic layer as well as activity info for stores and other locations. The move is meant to protect the safety of locals and follows consultation with Ukranian authorities, according to Google. The data is still available during turn-by-turn navigation sessions.

While Google didn't outline the exact reasons for deactivating the features, it follows discoveries by Middlebury Institute professor Jeffrey Lewis and others that live traffic info reflected troop movements as civilians were stuck at roadblocks. While that could help pinpoint Russian incursions, as Lewis noticed, the Russians could potentially use the traffic info to spot Ukranian military actions or a fleeing population.

The initiative comes as other tech giants have taken a series of actions in response to the Russian invasion. Meta has restricted the Facebook accounts of Russian state media in Ukraine, while Twitter has temporarily halted ads in both Russia and Ukraine to curb the spread of misinformation. Russia has retaliated in some cases, such as limiting access to Facebook. The actions show how relatively innocuous internet services can pose serious risks during a conflict, whether it's to distort reality or provide military intelligence.