Google has disabled live traffic updates for Israel and Gaza in Maps and Waze, a spokesperson has confirmed to Bloomberg. “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,” the spokesperson said. Israeli blog GeekTime reports that Apple has switched off the same feature in its Maps app, as well.
Google told The Hill that people can still use Maps and Waze to get route and ETA information that “take current traffic conditions into account.” They just won’t be able to see real-time traffic data in the apps like they could in the past. It’s unclear if Apple is also retaining some of its Maps’ navigation capabilities.
This move, made by both companies, comes just ahead of the Israeli military’s anticipated ground invasion into Gaza, wherein it reportedly plans to deploy tens of thousands of soldiers to capture the city. One of Bloomberg’s sources said Google disabled live traffic to comply with a request made by the Israel Defense Forces, likely because the feature could reveal its troops’ movements and tip off Hamas, which the US and the EU recognize as a terrorist organization. The Hill says Apple also removed live traffic in the region to comply with the IDF’s request.
Prior to this development, one of the most recent examples of Google disabling the ability to see live traffic conditions “in conflict situations” happened in 2022. The company deactivated Maps’ live traffic data in Ukraine back then, following Russia’s invasion of the country. It explained at the time that it implemented the change to protect the safety of locals, and that it came to the decision to do so after consulting with Ukranian authorities.