Google and Apple Disable Mapping Features in Israel and Gaza

Google and Apple have confirmed the temporary disabling of certain features in their mapping applications in Israel and the Gaza Strip. The move comes as tensions escalate in the region, with an imminent ground invasion of areas controlled by Hamas, a group recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S., reports The Hill.

Hamas initiated an attack on Israel on October 7, resulting in thousands of Israeli deaths and approximately 200 hostages being taken to the Gaza Strip. In retaliation, Israel has conducted aerial and naval attacks on Gaza, killing more than 5,000 people, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Israeli military commanders have indicated that a ground invasion is imminent.

Unnamed sources told Bloomberg that the disabling of real-time crowding data in Israel and Gaza was done at the request of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The IDF expressed concerns that live traffic information could potentially reveal the movements of Israeli armed forces. Google’s restrictions apply to its Google Maps and Waze products, while Apple has also complied with the IDF’s request on its Apple Maps service.

In a statement to The Hill, Google Maps spokesperson Caroline Bourdeau said, “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 see live traffic conditions and busyness information out of consideration for the safety of local communities.”

She added that drivers will still be able to use the navigation system to receive estimated times of arrival based on current traffic conditions.

This approach mirrors Google’s actions in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion in February 2022. The conflict with Hamas has been ongoing for more than two weeks, resulting in significant loss of life and the taking of hostages.

“I think they have a right to defend themselves against a terrorist threat, and quite frankly, Hamas has to be eliminated as a threat, not just to Israel but to the world,” said Canada’s Defence Minister Bill Blair on Tuesday.

As of October 21, the federal government says it has helped close to 1,600 Canadians, Permanent Residents and eligible family members and foreign nationals exit Israel with flights.

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