Google, Apple maps indicate Russian invasion ahead of news going public

Open-source intelligence expert and professor at Middlebury Institute, Jeffery Lewis and his team were able to ascertain an invasion was underway in Ukraine before the information went public. Lewis and his team used Google Maps traffic information alongside a radar image that showed troops to understand the situation.

In the tweet, Lewis noted that the traffic jam began at the exact position where a Russian formation of armor and IFV/APC had been reported. However, in a later tweet, he clarified to his followers that the traffic jam is detected by Google Maps was not soldiers carrying smartphones but civilians stuck at roadblocks. Lewis and his team had been using optical and radar satellite imagery to get evidence of Russian armored and heavy vehicles lined up and ready. His team noticed the traffic jam on the application after they received satellite images from Capella Space.

Google did not respond to Lewis’s observations and how Google was capturing live traffic data while tipping off the exact location of the oncoming military invasion. Lewis said, “I think big data companies often don’t want to face squarely how useful their data can be. 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, spot an offensive from Ukrainians.”

This raises the issue about the accidental power of tech, creating a clash between civil rights, civilian-oriented technology, and security.

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