How did Google Maps reveal information about the Russian attack on Ukraine ahead of schedule?

How did Google Maps reveal information about the Russian attack on Ukraine ahead of schedule?  A Washington Post report explains how a team of researchers used a combination of Google Maps and radar imagery to track Russian troop movements, leading them to anticipate the attack on Ukraine before it appeared in the news.  When Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, a professor at California's Middlebury Institute of International Studies, noticed that there was particularly bad traffic at 3:15 a.m. near the Ukrainian border, he learned that this wasn't the usual rush-hour crowds. Lewis and his students discovered the "hustle" on February 23 - just before the Russian invasion began.  "In the old days, we relied on a reporter to show us what was happening on the ground," Lewis told the Washington Post. "And today, you can open Google Maps and see people fleeing Kyiv."  Lewis believes that the heavy traffic that Google recorded was likely not from Russian soldiers carrying their phones, and instead recorded from the phones of civilians stuck at roadblocks. After the Russian forces began to make their way to Ukraine.  The newspaper pointed out that Google Maps showed road closures in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, as well as subway services throughout the city.  The Washington Post says it's unclear whether Google Maps offers danger alerts (a notice warning users in areas near major crises or shelter locations for people in Ukraine). However, Google Maps shows information about subway stations, some of which are used as shelters.  Damien Mencher, Google's security reliability engineer, notes on Twitter that the use of Google Maps has skyrocketed in Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion.  Google Maps appears to have become a potential tool for both civilians and soldiers on the ground in Ukraine, as well as outsiders keeping track of the situation in Ukraine.  This, along with the proliferation of social media, is enabling people in Ukraine to deliver their stories to thousands, if not millions of people from around the world, providing insights and information that people can only access through traditional news outlets.

How did Google Maps reveal information about the Russian attack on Ukraine ahead of schedule?


A Washington Post report explains how a team of researchers used a combination of Google Maps and radar imagery to track Russian troop movements, leading them to anticipate the attack on Ukraine before it appeared in the news.

When Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, a professor at California's Middlebury Institute of International Studies, noticed that there was particularly bad traffic at 3:15 a.m. near the Ukrainian border, he learned that this wasn't the usual rush-hour crowds. Lewis and his students discovered the "hustle" on February 23 - just before the Russian invasion began.

"In the old days, we relied on a reporter to show us what was happening on the ground," Lewis told the Washington Post. "And today, you can open Google Maps and see people fleeing Kyiv."

Lewis believes that the heavy traffic that Google recorded was likely not from Russian soldiers carrying their phones, and instead recorded from the phones of civilians stuck at roadblocks. After the Russian forces began to make their way to Ukraine.

The newspaper pointed out that Google Maps showed road closures in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, as well as subway services throughout the city.

The Washington Post says it's unclear whether Google Maps offers danger alerts (a notice warning users in areas near major crises or shelter locations for people in Ukraine). However, Google Maps shows information about subway stations, some of which are used as shelters.

Damien Mencher, Google's security reliability engineer, notes on Twitter that the use of Google Maps has skyrocketed in Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion.

Google Maps appears to have become a potential tool for both civilians and soldiers on the ground in Ukraine, as well as outsiders keeping track of the situation in Ukraine.

This, along with the proliferation of social media, is enabling people in Ukraine to deliver their stories to thousands, if not millions of people from around the world, providing insights and information that people can only access through traditional news outlets.
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