Google says it hasn’t changed anything in regards to blurring out sensitive sites in Russia, despite Ukraine’s armed forces alleging the company “opened access” to Moscow military facilities.
On Monday morning, the Armed Forces of Ukraine tweeted high-quality photos of Russian command posts, while announcing the end of Google’s alleged censorship of Moscow’s bases. Shortly afterward, Google denied having censored the photos to begin with.
The images show planes, ships and apparent active military bases.
“Google Maps opened access to Russia’s military and strategic facilities,” the Ukrainian military tweeted. “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.”
In response, Google said it hadn’t made any blurring changes, suggesting that the photos were always available.
“We haven’t made any blurring changes to our satellite imagery in Russia,” Google spokesperson Genevieve Park told Newsweek.
Contrary to Google’s statement, Russian media says the company has made the photos “newly accessible,” according to The Moscow Times.
The Russian publication alleges that the newly available images include, “the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, a nuclear weapons store near Murmansk, submarines in the Far East peninsula of Kamchatka, and a military airbase in the Western city of Kursk.”
The Times claims Google’s move to decensor Russian military bases comes amid “strained relations” between the country and the U.S. tech giant.
Last month, a YouTube spokesperson told Newsweek, “We’ve recently paused all Google and YouTube ads in Russia. As a follow-up, we’re now extending this pause to all our monetization features, including YouTube Premium, Channel Memberships, Super Chat, and Merchandise, for viewers in Russia.”
Google has also stopped advertising content produced by Russian state media, citing it didn’t want people to take advantage of the war for financial gain.
Though Google denies decensoring pictures of Russia’s military bases, the conglomerate does sensor U.S. bases.
In 2008, the U.S. Department of Defense banned Google from capturing images of military bases, citing security risks. The ban came after detailed images of Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, appeared on Google Maps, according to the Naval Postgraduate School.
“It is against Google’s policy for a driver to seek access to a military base. Our policy is to stay on public roads, but a driver broke that policy,” said Larry Yu, Google spokesman at the time.
A Google spokesperson declined to comment whether military base photo blurring is only for U.S. bases.