If you think the Waze app useful when you’re traveling, you might find this news troubling. Reportedly sheriffs and police officers from around the country are trying to get Google to remove the app or at least block features in the app that allow users to monitor police activity. Their reason? It’s putting them in…THE DANGER ZONE. From CBS News:
To Sergio Kopelev, a reserve deputy sheriff in Southern California, Waze is also a stalking app for law enforcement.
There are no known connections between any attack on police and Waze, but law enforcers such as Kopelev are concerned it’s only a matter of time. They are seeking support among other law enforcement trade groups to pressure Google to disable the police-reporting function. The emerging policy debate places Google again at the center of an ongoing global debate about public safety, consumer rights and privacy.
Waze users mark police presence on maps without much distinction other than “visible” or “hidden.” Users see a police icon, but it’s not immediately clear whether police are there for a speed trap, a sobriety check or a lunch break. The police generally are operating in public spaces.
Now as a Waze user myself, I’m probably a little biased in retelling this story. If it is doing anything against police, it is hindering their ability to catch speeders and bust law breakers along our highways.
It’s a very helpful tool during long trips and daily commutes and the police feature is just a small part of what makes Waze a pretty great little app. If there’s going to be any danger related to it, it’s going to be due to these wild claims being thrown out.
Considering recent developments with Google, users and privacy advocates alike might feel a little worried when they hear police are campaigning to the net giant. It also has some questioning how the app can be used by police via its ability to monitor users in real time:
Nuala O’Connor, head of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington civil liberties group, said it would not be appropriate for Google to disable the police-reporting feature.
“I do not think it is legitimate to ask a person-to-person communication to cease simply because it reports on publicly visible law enforcement,” she said. She said a bigger concern among privacy advocates is how much information about customers Waze shares with law enforcement, since the service necessarily monitors their location continually as long as it’s turned on. (via)
Despite all of this, police are holding close to their assumption that Waze is putting police in the line of fire. This isn’t the first time they’ve taken aim at apps similar to Waze, successfully lobbying to have sobriety checkpoint monitoring features removed from apps used by Apple and Nokia. Jim Pasco, the executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, has his own thoughts on what could happen:
“I can think of 100 ways that it could present an officer-safety issue,” Pasco said. “There’s no control over who uses it. So, if you’re a criminal and you want to rob a bank, hypothetically, you use your Waze.” (via)
Waze will help you get to and from the bank, avoiding traffic and police that have been reported in the area by other Waze users, but it will not aid in robbing the bank. That’s up to you and you will likely fail miserably. Luckily, someone else can use Waze to warn other users to avoid the area and keep them safe from your folly. At least they can for now.
(Via CBS News)