NYPD Sends Letter To Google Demanding It Remove Cop Checkpoint Notifications From Google Maps

from the when-one-business-model-interferes-with-another-business-model dept

A few years after law enforcement officials claimed Google's Waze navigation app allowed cop killers to stalk cops, the NYPD is demanding Google alter one of its apps (Google Maps, which incorporates certain Waze features) so it works more like the NYPD wants it to work, rather than how drivers want it to work. Gersh Kuntzman of Streetsblog NYC was the first to obtain a copy of a cease-and-desist sent to Google by the NYPD.

The NYPD is demanding that Google remove a just-added feature to its omnipresent Maps program that tips off drivers to the locations of speed cameras, Streetsblog has learned.

Google added the speed camera notification as part of its effort to incorporate some of the crowd-sourced features of Waze, which the tech giant bought in 2013. The Waze app shows the locations of police checkpoints as well as what some drivers call “speed traps,” but what police believe are life-saving enforcement efforts.

The NYPD sent its “cease-and-desist” letter to Google over the weekend — after Streetsblog asked officials’ about the Waze feature that allows drivers to inform each other of police roadblocks.

The NYPD is upset because the new notifications allow drivers to route around DWI roadblocks. The NYPD apparently feels allowing drivers to bypass checkpoints will make the streets less safe and prevent the police force from enjoying the side benefits of dozens of suspicionless stops.

There are a number of reasons drivers may not want to interact with the NYPD, most of which have nothing to do with driving drunk. A police checkpoint is a hassle for anyone wanting to go from Point A to Point B, especially when every driver in line is presumed guilty until cleared by officers. It's win-win for the NYPD, which also assumes anyone avoiding a checkpoint is also guilty. These notifications might suck for cops, but it's a stretch to assume the app is allowing a horde of drunk drivers to roam the city unmolested.

But that's exactly what the NYPD assumes. Its cease-and-desist letter [PDF] demands Google not only remove this feature from Google Maps but somehow prevent users from finding others ways to notify fellow drivers about law enforcement checkpoints. It also accuses Maps users of committing criminal acts simply by posting the location of cop checkpoints.

Individuals who post the location of DWI checkpoints may be engaging in criminal conduct since such actions could be intentional attempts to prevent and/or impair the administration of DWI laws and other relevant criminal and traffic laws. The posting of such information for public consumption is irresponsible since it only serves to aid impaired and intoxicated drivers to evade checkpoints and encourage reckless driving.

This is nonsense. The posting of this information doesn't "only serve" impaired drivers. It also aids unimpaired drivers who may not want to make a suspicionless stop part of their daily commute. Even the most historically-strident advocate of driving while intoxicated laws doesn't agree with the NYPD's claims.

Helen Witty, the national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was reluctant to address the specifics of the letter without more information, but she noted that sobriety checkpoints were frequently publicized in advance and that even when drivers were warned about them, they served their purpose.

“If you are impaired, you are not going to pay attention to that information,” she said, adding that in her experience, drunken drivers coming through sobriety checkpoints were often very confused or unaware of what was happening.

Witty goes on to point out the goal of regular DWI checkpoints is to make all drivers aware officers are looking for and punishing drunk drivers. More public awareness means fewer drunk drivers on the road, which should be the ultimate goal of these checkpoints.

Google has responded to the letter with a statement that indicates it won't be removing users' ability to warn others of speed traps and DWI checkpoints.

“Safety is a top priority when developing navigation features at Google. We believe that informing drivers about upcoming speed traps allows them to be more careful and make safer decisions when they’re on the road,” a Google spokesperson told CBS2 in a statement.

If the purpose of speed limits is to reduce drivers' speed to something the local government considers to be safe, a warning about speed traps ensures nothing more than drivers using Maps will be driving the speed limit when they approach that area. If the actual goal of speed traps and DWI checkpoints is to generate revenue, then of course law enforcement is going to be upset about Google picking its pocket.

The other odd thing to note is that the NYPD seems to want its letter to Google memory-holed. Streetsblog was the first to obtain the letter, but its copy has already been removed from Scribd. CBS News also posted a copy of the letter, but that link now returns a 404 error. No updates have been published at either site explaining the disappearance of the letter, and neither site has expressed any doubt as to the letter's legitimacy. What's posted below is built from screenshots of Streetsblog's embed, which is (so far) still generating an image of the PDF Scribd no longer hosts. It seems odd the NYPD would want this letter scrubbed from the internet, but it seems completely unlikely StreetsBlog and CBS both decided to delete this document on their own.

Filed Under: dui checkpoints, free speech, google maps, nypd, police, speed cameras, speed traps, waze
Companies: google


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2019 @ 9:39am

    So, did NYPD send a C&D on their C&D, or did they send a DMCA takedown?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2019 @ 9:41am

    Hey, NYPD:
    Freedom of Speech, motherfuckers!

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

    • icon
      btr1701 (profile), 8 Feb 2019 @ 11:59am

      Re:

      Yep.

      "The NYPD has become aware that the Waze Mobile application currently permits the public to report DWI checkpoints throughout New York City and map these locations. Accordingly, we demand that Google LLC, upon receipt of this letter, immediately remove this function from the Waze application."

      Were I Google, my response would be short and sweet:

      United States Constitution, Amendment I

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

      Hell, in California, the police are required to post public notification of DUI/License checkpoints at least 24 hours before conducting them. If the cops have to make a public announcement, how could it be a crime for an app to provide the same information?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2019 @ 1:07pm

      Re:

      It's ok for the NYPD to source and collate data they shouldn't have but it's not ok for the public to share information with each other.

      Ok. Noted. Fuck NY.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2019 @ 9:44am

    They should arrest some Google executives and let them prove their case in court.

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

  • icon
    Mononymous Tim (profile), 8 Feb 2019 @ 10:12am

    Apparently they're not interested in the deterrent side of things. There's no money in that!

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

  • icon
    Gwiz (profile), 8 Feb 2019 @ 10:27am

    Individuals who post the location of DWI checkpoints may be engaging in criminal conduct since such actions could be intentional attempts to prevent and/or impair the administration of DWI laws and other relevant criminal and traffic laws.

    I have no clue about New York and my own state has made DUI checkpoints a violation of the state constitution, but I thought the purpose of announcing DUI checkpoints in advance was to alleviate some of the legal problems associated with the Fourth Amendment standard of "reasonable search and seizure."

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

  • icon
    Gwiz (profile), 8 Feb 2019 @ 11:12am

    Streisand Effect

    Makes me wonder how many more people are now aware that Google Maps/Waze has this feature than before NYPD sent their letter. A quick Google search comes back with tons of news outlets covering this story right now.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2019 @ 11:18am

    Public servants getting paid with public funds to do a public service have no expectation of privacy.

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

  • identicon
    Qwertygiy, 8 Feb 2019 @ 11:38am

    Not completely deleted

    I don't know about Scribd, but the CBS file just appears to have been moved to a more stable location, from a "/users/RAnderson1/Downloads" folder to a wordpress file-hosting site.

    Article: https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2019/02/06/nypd-letter-google-dwi-checkpoints-waze-app/

    PDF linked therein: https://cbsnewyork.files.wordpress.com/2019/02/googlellcdwicheckpoints-020219.pdf

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2019 @ 11:54am

    Not that I approve of drunk driving or anything, but the punishments for it have become excessive and insane. Google is right to warn people.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2019 @ 12:34pm

      Re:

      Welcome my son - welcome to the machine

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

    • identicon
      Rocky, 8 Feb 2019 @ 2:37pm

      Re:

      I my opinion there is no excuse for drunk driving except for some very limited exceptions (like life & death situations) so if people are stupid enough to do it they deserve what's coming if they get caught.

      Also, it's no wonder the punishment are getting harsher - about 30% of all drivers arrested for drunk driving are repeat offenders.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2019 @ 6:33pm

        Re: Re:

        The punishment (or extensiveness of treatment and monitoring) should be predicated on the behaviorr of the individual repeat offender, not the perceived climate.

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

        • identicon
          Rocky, 9 Feb 2019 @ 5:09am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The punishment (or extensiveness of treatment and monitoring) should be predicated on the behaviorr of the individual repeat offender, not the perceived climate.

          Maybe you should point that out to the politicians, I just gave a reason for why the punishment are getting harder.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2019 @ 8:41pm

        Re: Re:

        Really I think the problem isn't the punishment per say but the recidivism. Some countries with far more functional public transit have a lifetime license loss for drunk driving which is perfectly fine in that case since their system can support it.

        Here it may not work too well since in many cases even taking their license doesn't stop repeat offenders from just driving unlicensed. Fixing public transit would help with it like many other issues but there seems to be little will or appetite for it.

        What isn't fine /ever/ is the policing turning into an utter shakedown.

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

      • identicon
        Drunk Uncle Sam, 10 Feb 2019 @ 5:31am

        Re: Re:

        "I my opinion there is no excuse for drunk driving ... they deserve what's coming"

        Why not the death penalty then, why even bother with the justice system - just shoot them right then and there.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2019 @ 12:13pm

    NYPD should just pull an AOC just remove the walls around Rikers and let the criminals just walk right in ....oops I think they would rather walk out

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2019 @ 12:35pm

      Re:

      I find it humorous that AOC gets some folk all twisty in their panties.

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

      • icon
        Thad (profile), 8 Feb 2019 @ 1:27pm

        Re: Re:

        Do you think this is the same guy who started ranting about AOC in another totally unrelated thread earlier today, or do you suppose we've got more than one?

        And do you suppose it's occurred to any of them that if right-wingers hadn't spent the past six months ranting about her nonstop, most people would never have even heard of this freshman representative from New York?

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2019 @ 3:01pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Prob the same poster. Yes, but I doubt they think about it enough to see their contribution to her notoriety.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2019 @ 1:28pm

        Re: Re:

        ^ yup; funny/sad.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2019 @ 3:42pm

      Re:

      Your tears are both delicious and nutritious.

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

      • identicon
        Digitari, 11 Feb 2019 @ 8:15am

        Re: Re:

        Don't you "Democrats"have shoe polish to put on,That you got with basic income?

        Oh, that is President Trumps fault.

        Flame on SJW's flame on

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

  • identicon
    Glenn, 8 Feb 2019 @ 12:32pm

    Survey says: #1 reason... avoid being shot by cops

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 8 Feb 2019 @ 12:35pm

    No really, it's not a thing

    Sounds like someone needs to tell the NYPD that 'felony interference with a business model' is not in fact a law(yet).

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

  • identicon
    tanj, 8 Feb 2019 @ 12:53pm

    If you're not doing anything wrong you have nothing to hide.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2019 @ 1:11pm

      Re:

      And obviously you have lots of time to waste on pointless police checkpoints on your way home.

      OR... You could drive around it and spend that time trolling TD instead, right?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2019 @ 4:16pm

        Re: Re:

        He may have been referring to the NYPD, using their own words. If NYPD isn't doing anything wrong [with/at DUI checkpoints], then they have nothing to hide [so no reason to hide it from Waze].

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2019 @ 6:37pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          No, some variant of this shows up in the comments of nearly everypost here of late. It's just some moron, whether they are being sarcastic or straightforward.

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

    • identicon
      Qwertygiy, 8 Feb 2019 @ 1:16pm

      Re:

      If you're not doing anything wrong you have nothing to hide.

      I know I'm not hiding cocaine up my butt when I'm driving to a business meeting.

      You know I'm not hiding cocaine up my butt when I'm driving to a business meeting.

      But the cops know that if I'm not doing anything wrong, I have nothing up my butt to hide. So if they find anything as little as gas leaking, despite my insistence of innocence, they need to investigate and make sure I'm not just full of crap.

      (Apologies to David Eckert for flushing the severity of personal probes down the drain.)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2019 @ 1:33pm

    this isn't new and there's no way they thought sending a shakedown letter to google would amount to anything happening for them. odd move on their part; likely just more grandstanding for them. if it's out in the public, then there's no since of privacy. if they want to do a dui checkpoint from their driveway at the station, i wonder if they'd catch a few people leaving who are drunk?

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

  • icon
    Beta (profile), 8 Feb 2019 @ 4:52pm

    "If the actual goal of speed traps and DWI checkpoints is to generate revenue, then of course law enforcement is going to be upset about Google picking its pocket."

    That is not the correct metaphor. Persuading people to obey the law and thereby avoid fines is not picking anyone's pocket. "Spooking its quarry" might be better.

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

  • identicon
    Châu, 8 Feb 2019 @ 9:55pm

    Require police pay for people's time

    Government pay police when they work, if they inspect people at check points, police watse people's time and should pay people at least equal with police officers pay. This force police become effiecient and only do silly stuff only when they really need.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 11 Feb 2019 @ 1:08am

    Somewhat late comment but here the cops are simply keeping track of the app and setting up further checkpoints on the fly to avoid the app. They tried to take it to the courts but they got a "go fuck yourselves" as an answer (figuratively speaking) and simply decided to act smart and do their jobs instead of complaining.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 11 Feb 2019 @ 6:10am

      Re:

      Wait, complaining isn't their job? They do it so often I figured it had to be because it was just part of the job description, something they had to do rather than the result of petulant childishness.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2019 @ 2:24pm

    "More public awareness means fewer drunk drivers on the road, which should be the ultimate goal of these checkpoints."

    But what about my quota...

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


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