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?

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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 7:44am

    You first

    Police defend license plate readers by claiming that the information they gather, what plate went past what location when, is publicly available. If they're going to use that defense for plate readers, then unless they care to be blatant hypocrites, they cannot then turn around and claim that police location data is suddenly private and needs to be hidden.

    If they can watch us, we should have the same ability to watch them, and if they object to being watched, then they shouldn't be doing any watching of others themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 9:59am

      Re: You first

      here here...

      unfortunately the police neither care about the people, nor do they see themselves as beholden to us.

      to the police, were are all just criminals they do not have enough evidence for arrest.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        DOlz (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 11:57am

        Re: Re: You first

        "to the police, were are all just criminals they do not have enough evidence for arrest.”

        Well that’s fair. More and more of us are thinking of the police as criminals with nice uniforms.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      pixelpusher220 (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 10:36am

      Re: You first

      "unless they care to be blatant hypocrites"

      That's the problem, they don't care...that they are

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 9:21pm

        Re: Re: You first

        True, but like most hypocrites, they tend not to like it when people point it out, so you use that dislike to hopefully guide their behavior a bit into more acceptable realms.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 11:11am

      Re: You first

      That is a very good point. But does that work in reverse? Can we claim that police can't constitutionally use license plate readers while also claiming that *their* location is public?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        M. Alan Thomas II (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 1:58pm

        Re: Re: You first

        A good point. I think we can; there's a presumption of transparency in government and a presumption of privacy for private citizens. These presumptions can be used to differentiate the cases.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          M. Alan Thomas II (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 2:02pm

          Re: Re: Re: You first

          Also, it's a difference between tracking that can, in aggregate, reveal very private and personal information vs. knowing simply that some generic officer is performing their office in a particular location today with no tracking over time or of personal lives.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Em, 27 Jan 2015 @ 5:37pm

        Re: Re: You first

        The Supreme Court has ruled that they have no expectation of privacy when performing their duties to the public.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 9:41am

    I'm much more afraid of the police stalking me than they are of anyone stalking them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    dfed (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 9:44am

    I read "Danger to police" but what I heard was "Danger to Police revenues."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 3:03pm

      Re:

      I read "Danger to police" but what I heard was "Danger to Police revenues."

      What read is "Holy crap, the cops are pansies!" They're armed to the teeth, wearing body armour, driving armoured vehicles (MRAPs?), and we're a threat to them? Come on!

      This is not a new thing. I've been hearing police complain about how *everything* is against them for decades. Yet fifteen(?) year olds are shot in traffic stops, instead of cops thinking instead. Lay out a spike strip to stop that stolen car, you idiots! You don't need to be shooting teenagers.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 6:05pm

        Re: Re:

        'You reap what you sow'.

        They've spent how many years seeing, and treating, the public as though every last member of it was an enemy, nothing but vicious criminals just barely restraining themselves from attacking the cops, and therefor who need to be treated as much?

        Treat someone like that, in word and in action, and yeah, you're not going to be making many friends.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 9:44am

    Never trust anything the NSA says.

    What, this is an article about the National Sheriff's Association this time? Well, the warning still applies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 9:56am

    I find the speed trap reports very valuable. Not because I like speeding, with very few exceptions I'm right at the speed limit or below it (no, I don't 'cheat' with the 10% margin) but rather because sometimes you get tickets because you are busy paying attention to more pressing matters such as where you need to turn, adverse conditions on the road/street, some bad driver nearby etc. I got one of such tickets after 10 years clean of any ticket whatsoever.

    Besides, the drivers that intentionally speed will have it embedded in their GPS devices, it's not hard to find maps with probable speed traps loaded in them (cops aren't very creative with their stuff and tend to set up the things in the same spot every time).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 10:00am

    Maybe if the police don't want people to hate them they should stop being assholes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 10:13am

    If the goal is public safety, Waze helps in that regard. People slow down, avoid traffic jams and debris in the road, etc. If the goal is revenue, the police need new goals.

    Police also need to stop being such pussies. They're armed, armored, and (semi) trained. Fear for their safety shouldn't be an issue anymore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      pixelpusher220 (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 10:39am

      Re:

      Actually it's the law in Virginia and many other states. You must move over a lane (or slow way down) when passing emergency vehicles on the shoulder.

      We're just helping people follow the law (and make the Police measurably safer)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 10:20am

    I wonder...

    ...how many cops use this app when off duty. After all one cannot flash their badge until after they've been pulled over.

    Alternatively, this may make it easier to find where the good doughnuts are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 10:32am

    Slowing down for a speed trap?

    Isn't that the whole point -- to get people to obey the speed limit?

    No tickees, no revenues. Oops!

    Just like those red-light cameras, the goal was revenue, not safety.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    tomczerniawski, 27 Jan 2015 @ 10:34am

    We shouldn't blame the cops, or mock them for wanting this app disabled. They're expressing exactly the same fear we are expressing: the fear that technology might be used to track us, and harm us.

    If anything, this is an opportunity to build bridges between groups of law enforcement officers, and privacy activists. We're all equally endangered by out-of-control surveillance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 10:41am

      Re:

      Nope. I appreciate your attempt to find a middle road here, but there isn't one. Police officers aren't at all endangered by public surveillance unless you mean that they're in danger of being caught breaking the law.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 10:55am

      Re:

      " They're expressing exactly the same fear we are expressing: the fear that technology might be used to track us, and harm us."

      There is a HUGE difference, though. We're talking about the police while they are on duty. There is no personal privacy implication about knowing where a public servant is when they are performing their job.

      The technology that tracks us is tracking us in our personal lives, not on the job. Notice that people are a lot more forgiving about on-the-job surveillance than off-the-job surveillance.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 10:51am

    I use it to stalk and snipe cops because I'm a criminal and hate them that much.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Another Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 11:15am

    Obligatory

    If they're not doing anything wrong, why are they worried?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 11:32am

    Hmmm. What's That Old Saw...

    "We can watch them. If they're not doing anything wrong, they have nothing to worry about."

    Yeah, that was it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    yankinwaoz (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 11:35am

    BS. If someone wants to find cops to hurt, then all they have to do is call 911 and wait for them to come. They aren't going to bother with Waze.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 11:36am

    Next Up, A Ban on Eyes

    Tragically, in NYC two policemen were shot last month by a deranged lunatic. He saw the cruiser, moved up and assassinated both officers.

    In committing the crime, he made use of his eyes and vision. These tools can be used to see police cars when they are stopped at roadsides and other locations, thus, the National Sheriffs Association is petitioning people to remove their eyes, which pose a marked risk to officer safety.

    The data doesn't lie:
    Cases in which eyes have been used to harm officers: basically all
    Cases in which Waze has been used to harm officers: basically zero

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 1:49pm

      Re: Next Up, A Ban on Eyes

      You lookin' at me? ARE YOU LOOKING AT ME? You are under arrest, for looking at me.

      (Sounds like all the videos on photographyisnotacrime.com, so it probably isn't far off.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 27 Jan 2015 @ 11:43am

    Odd that the ones that track us are the ones with the guns, but yet they are 'afraid'??!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 12:01pm

    I dont understand, how does waze PRE.VENT, us, from being stalked, by the police

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    W Klink (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 12:13pm

    New feature request

    Waze should add the ability to report livestock on the road, like horses, cows, and pigs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JohnnyRotten (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 12:59pm

    People will just circumvent...

    Oh look a road hazard! a place... a camera... a gas price... a map issue... etc, etc.

    Google could lock down the reporting functionality of the app, which would just drive people to adopt the next app that wasn't crippleware.

    The eye cannot commit a trespass.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 1:06pm

    "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,''

    Litigation or statutory action? Like what?

    Are they really going to claim that they were parked in a public place and because of this app, people noticed them?

    You know, sometimes I wish they would start with the litigation, and get themselves severely bitch-slapped by Google's lawyers, while being laughed out of the courtroom. After all, he seems so confident that he has a point.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 4:08pm

      Re:

      You know, sometimes I wish they would start with the litigation, and get themselves severely bitch-slapped by Google's lawyers, while being laughed out of the courtroom. After all, he seems so confident that he has a point.

      Yet G. appears to agree. They're censoring their app because cops are afraid of those (us; their employers) they're supposed to protect and serve.

      It's a strange, strange world we live in, master Jack.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 1:51pm

    Ticket quotas

    This isn't about bank robbers or the safety of the police. It is simply that people slow down to the speed limit when they know that there are police around, resulting in fewer speeding tickets, which cut into the ticket quotas that the police are expected to issue. $$ pure and simple!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 2:26pm

    serfs should be seen and not heard. if a cop tells you to so something you should do it or you deserve to get beaten for your lack of respect.

    There is your basic police officer mentality in a nutshell

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rapnel (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 4:14pm

    I don't know about everyone else but I'm growing pretty tired of the "needs of law enforcement" mantra. We choose to be governed by the rule of law and not by and for the ease of law enforcement. Those are the wrong rules. If you can not fight crime without further elevating the already disproportionately elevated "police powers" because "hard" then we have a problem and people are going to start choosing .. differently.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AnonCow, 29 Jan 2015 @ 6:08am

    The opposite argument is equally valid: Waze saves police officer lives by keeping them alert and aware of the fact that they could be stalked.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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