Researchers have used pictures and videos posted online along with satellite imagery to track the movement of Russian troops and equipment into Ukraine, according to a report by the Atlantic Council, a D.C. based think tank.
“The point is that we tap into people’s desire to share data online,” said Maks Czuperski, one of the authors of the May 28 report, “Hiding in Plain Sight: Putin’s War in Ukraine.”
Most devices used for posting to the Internet embed geotags in the data, which are geographic location identifiers, Czuperski said. These geotags become an important part of locating military movements.
“They create little digital breadcrumbs all across the Internet,” Czuperski said.
Researchers could verify the images location with other pictures found online of the same location using the geotag with tools such as Google Earth and Yandex Maps, Czuperski said. Using the landscape and landmarks found in other pictures, they were able to identify to a high degree of certainty the location of images they collected, Czuperski said.
All images would be archived after they were collected, Czuperski said. If equipment or weapon systems first seen in Russia appear to pop up in Ukraine, they can go back and verify using images in the databank, he said.