Google Denies Making Russian Military Sites More Visible in Maps App
A person holds a smartphone with a running Google Maps app on the background of landmarks in Moscow's Red Square. (Toxawww/Dreamstime)
By Charles Kim | Monday, 18 April 2022 06:53 PM
The tech giant Google denied reports Monday that it had stopped ''blurring'' images of sensitive Russian military sites on its Maps application.
"We haven't made any changes regarding blurring in our satellite images in Russia," a spokesman for the comapny told Russia's government news agency Tass on Monday after social media posts insisted that the previously ''blurred'' satellite images of Russian aircraft, missiles and other assets were more clearly visible.
''Now everyone can see a variety of Russian launchers, intercontinental ballistic missile mines, command posts and secret landfills with a resolution of about 0.5 meters per pixel,'' Armed Forces Ukr posted on Twitter on Monday, allegedly showing the ''unblurred'' images of Russian planes, missiles and ships.
According to a Moscow Times report, such military installations are usually ''blurred'' or shown at a lower quality to protect the integrity of ''classified'' areas.
The news outlet said the higher-quality images are apparently clearer because of a rift between the Russian government and Google that started with the tech firm banning Russian advertisements after the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian state then claimed that Google-owned YouTube of starting an ''information war'' by banning its media from the platform.
The Daily Mail reported in 2016 that Google Earth blurred or made certain areas undiscernible, including sensitive military areas or even individual homes for various reasons.
One of the areas blurred out that the Daily Mail reported on included the suspected location of a High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program site near the Washington-Oregon state line.
According to a 2014 NBC News report, the facility in Alaska studying the transmission of radio waves in the ionosphere that some had speculated could cause changes in the weather was closed by the U.S. Air Force.
In addition to the more conspiratorial sites allegedly blurred out by Google, another is an island in the Pacific near the Philippines allegedly used for nuclear testing, according to the Daily Mail report.
The ars Technica website reported Monday that the better-resolution images of Russian sites included Lipetsk air base showing disassembled MiG aircraft and several Sukhoi fighter jets.
Some images also clearly show military aircraft used for test flights at Zhukovsky International Airport near Moscow, the site reported.
Images like these have helped a ''growing mass of open-source intelligence analysts,'' the site said.