Police Ask Waze To Remove Speed Trap Alerts To Protect Cops

waze-fullThe navigation and traffic app Waze is sometimes very helpful to help motorists avoid snarled traffic, construction, and road hazards. One of its features has some police officers worried, though. They worry that the feature that allows Waze users to alert each other to speed traps could endanger the lives of police officers.

They’re not concerned about speeding ticket revenue, but about something scarier. The location of cops is just one of many things that Waze users can warn other travelers about, but police don’t object to people alerting each other to potholes or closed bridges as long as they don’t do it while driving. The “police” alert allows users to mark spots where they see police officers, whether the cars are lying in wait in a hidden speed trap or stopped at the local doughnut shop for coffee. Yet after the random murder of two police officers in New York City last month, some officers are wondering whether it’s a good idea to post that information on a map available to the public.

Google owns Waze, and does have a history of working with the government to share some information. A spokesperson for Waze explained to the Associated Press that the company does share some information with local police departments, and that safety is very important to the company. Corporate parent Google declined to comment to the AP.

“The police community needs to coordinate an effort to have the owner, Google, act like the responsible corporate citizen they have always been and remove this feature from the application even before any litigation or statutory action,” a sheriff in Virginia (who happens to chair the National Sheriffs Association technology committee) told the Associated Press.

Yet privacy advocates point out that what police are actually trying to do here is censor person-to-person communication, even if it is between people who are strangers and happen to be using the same roads around the same time. Governments have asked mobile app gatekeepers to remove apps that let motorists share information about the location of drunk-driving checkpoints,

Police urge Google to turn off ‘stalking’ feature on mobile app for drivers [Associated Press]