Welcome to the 21st Century, where just as nations can decide the course of wars… and so can Corporations. In an unexpected move, Google parent company Alphabet, Inc. confirmed to the world on Sunday, February 27th that in the face of Russian forces pouring into urban areas of Kharkiv, Kyiv, Odesa, and other Ukrainian cities they have globally disabled the traffic functionality of Google maps within Ukraine along with ‘live’ information noting the foot traffic and busy times of local businesses after consulting with local and regional authorities.
We Had GoogleEarth, Now We Have Google War
With attacks occurring all over the country as Russian columns advance from Belarus and up from Crimea in addition to the eastern front in the Dobass, the metrics from Google could be used by the Russians as OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) from which they can discern either troop and equipment movements, as well as vulnerable concentrations of civilians as some 400,000 of them, have fled to Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova, and then some on to other friendly nations.
Social Network users have also been urging Ukrainian users to disable geocoding and location tagging on the pictures and videos they post as these can also be turned against them by shrewd Russian intel officers.
According to CTVNews,
“Big tech companies including Google have said they are taking new measures to protect users’ security in the region.
Online services and social media sites have also been tapped by researchers piecing together activity around the war.
A professor at California’s Middlebury Institute of International Studies said Google Maps helped him track a “traffic jam” that was actually Russian movement towards the border hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the attack.”
The Professor referred to by CTVNews: Dr. Jeffrey Lewis told Twitter users that he had used the features “to see the first signs of the invasion using @googlemaps’s traffic layer.” according to The New York Post.
— Dr. Jeffrey Lewis (@ArmsControlWonk) February 24, 2022
“I think big data companies often don’t want to face squarely how useful their data can be,” Lewis told Vice. “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.”
To help facilitate the movements of fleeing refugees from the expanding battlespace Google has kept the turn-by-turn navigation function of its service online at least for the time being.
Other Big Tech Firms Join The War Effort In Ukraine
In addition to Google’s efforts other Big Tech firms have also taken steps to obliquely intervene in the conflict with Facebook disabling some 40 “fake accounts” groups and pages targeting Ukraine and promoting “fake news articles about the war“, this is notable, however, Facebook and parent company Meta are notorious for their utterly biased policies and obvious censorship of Conservatives casting the effectiveness and motives of their actions into serious question.
Less ambiguously, StarLink CEO Elon Musk at the request of Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation sent StarLink ground terminals to Ukraine to keep the country connected after recently deploying a constellation of StarLink satellites that covers that region of Europe.
“Musk made the statement on Twitter Saturday (Feb. 26) after being asked by a Ukrainian government official if SpaceX could provide more Starlink services to the country after Russian troops invaded Ukraine last week. Internet services in Ukraine has seen “significant disruptions” in the capital city of Kyiv and across much of the country due to Russian military operations and the ensuing fighting, the monitoring group Netblocks reported on Thursday (Feb. 24).”
Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 26, 2022