Yandex Maps, Russia’s leading mapping service and its equivalent of Google Maps, has mistakenly revealed the locations and details of various military-related sites in Turkish and Israeli territory, as well as two major NATO bases.
According to a report by Matt Korda of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), the military sites ranged from entire airfields to munition storage bunkers in what he described as “small, nondescript buildings within city blocks”.
Google Maps and other mapping services usually show satellite images with a variety of resolutions and use low resolution quality on secretive locations such as these – particularly due to the 1997 US Kyl-Bingaman Amendment (KBA) law which prohibits US companies from publishing high-resolution satellite imagery of Israel for security purposes. Yandex, being a Russian service, is not legally bound by that law and so instead of simply lowering the resolution it blurred the sites, making them more distinctive and revealing their exact locations and perimeters.
This means that a curious – or obsessive – user can look through the map of the globe presented on Yandex and find completely blurred-out sites or areas, therefore identifying the locations and general perimeters of that country’s major military sites. The inadvertent action on the part of Yandex, therefore, presents a potential security threat to both Turkey’s and Israel’s military sites, as well as two major NATO facilities: the Allied Land Command (LANDCOM) in Izmir, and the Incirlik Air Base in Adana.
Korda predicted in the report that Turkey and Israel most likely requested Yandex Maps to hide their facilities on the satellite images, but did not expect it to blur them and have the counterproductive effect of exposing them. No sensitive Russian facilities were blurred, including its submarine bases, nuclear sites and launch facilities both at home and abroad.