Law Enforcement Wants Google To Cripple Waze Because It Lets The Mean Old Public 'Stalk' Police Officers
from the I-can-see-you-parked-right-there dept
If you’ve tinkered with Waze at all you know the app allows users to post road conditions, lane closures, police locations, and other pertinent driving hazards with a heavy emphasis on the gamification of that information (i.e., you get points for reporting accurate information). I generally find the feature to be marginally useful if not annoying. Police move positions so quickly I find that crowdsourcing isn’t particularly effective. As such, I generally just stick to my long-standing practice of flirting with a speed that’s around six to seven miles over the speed limit (I know, I’m an absolute wild man).
Eager to protect a revenue generator, law enforcement has long wanted speed trap warning disabled in the app, though as we’ve noted, warning others of speed traps (whether that’s flashing your lights or otherwise) is effectively protected speech. With previous arguments not working so well, the latest claim by the law enforcement community is that Waze is dangerous for police because it effectively facilitates stalking of officers. Or at least that’s the argument being pushed forth by the National Sheriffs Association in their quest to make Waze much less useful to motorists:
“Sheriff Mike Brown of Bedford County, Virginia, said the police-reporting feature, which he called the “police stalker,” presents a danger to law enforcement. “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,” said Brown, who also serves as the chairman of the National Sheriffs Association technology committee.”
Of course, the police officers being “stalked” are parked in obvious line of sight on public motorways, and if a mentally-unstable person did want to cause problems, it’s not too hard to find an opportunity. At the same time, the citizens using the app are simply having a perfectly-legal conversation. Combined with the fact that the quoted officers can’t be bothered to cite a single instance where this sort of technology has ever been a problem in this regard, that’s a pretty feeble justification for crippling an application by any measure. Regardless, it appears Google has already been making concessions; when it started porting Waze data into Google Maps earlier this year, police reporting data was notably absent.
Whatever, just as long as we’re not talking about how much Waze location data gets shared with the law enforcement and intelligence communities, right?