By Elizabeth Culliford
(Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google confirmed on Sunday it has temporarily disabled for Ukraine some Google Maps tools which provide live information about traffic conditions and how busy different places are.
The company said it had taken the action of globally disabling the Google Maps traffic layer and live information on how busy places like stores and restaurants are in Ukraine for the safety of local communities in the country, after consulting with sources including regional authorities.
Ukraine is facing attacks from Russian forces who invaded the country on Thursday. As missiles fell on Ukrainian cities, nearly 400,000 civilians, mainly women and children, have fled into neighbouring countries.
Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation”.
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.
Google said live traffic information remained available to drivers using its turn-by-turn navigation features in the area.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in New York; Additional reporting by Paresh Dave in Oakland, California; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Kenneth Maxwell)