Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Apple and Google disable traffic data from their maps in Israel and Gaza

Traffic data offered by Google Maps is no longer available in Israel and Gazaas confirmed by the company to Bloomberg. According to the Israeli portal GeekTime, Apple has also done the same with its maps service; presumably at the request of the Israel Defense Forces.

“As we have done previously in conflict situations and in response to the evolving situation in the region, We have temporarily disabled the ability to view live traffic conditions and activity information out of consideration for the safety of local communities,” a Google spokesperson detailed to Bloomberg.

For the moment, yes, both Google Maps and Waze (owned by Google) allow citizens to make routes taking into account current traffic conditions. That is, they will be able to see, for example, the actual duration of a journey, although not real-time traffic data; for example, if the road is busy, if there are road works, etc.

The inability to view traffic data in Google map applications, as well as Apple Maps, appears to have been carried out following a request from the Israel Defense Forceswho fear that Hamas could use this information to track the movements of the Israeli armed forces.

Apple and Google did the same during the Ukrainian war

This decision by Google and Apple was also held in October 2022, in the middle of the war between Russia and Ukraine. According to reports, this data could have been helpful to Russian troops in their invasion of Ukraine, since this way they could avoid blocked or busy roads for those citizens who were fleeing their homes due to an attack.

It was also feared that the Russians could use this information to detect Ukrainian military actions. Google, therefore, decided to disable this function that has been present in its service for years.

Curiously, given the impossibility of using Google Maps and Apple Maps correctly, Ukrainian citizens used Find My, Apple’s object and device location service, to find the Russian troops who were stealing their devices. Later, they reported their location to the Ukrainian troops. The Find My function, remember, allows you to locate accessories such as AirPods even if they are not connected to a WiFi network. This is because they connect, privately, to other devices thanks to the Ultra Wide Band, thus sending the exact location to the owner.

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