We've been discussing how law enforcement organizations have started ramping up their war on the Google-owned, traffic info crowdsourcing app, Waze, in the belief that it's hindering local revenue generation. More specifically, they've been trying to stop the app and its users from reporting police speed trap locations, going so far as to make the absurd argument that the app allows citizens to become police "stalkers." Of course as noted previously
, these officers are usually in plain sight and obviously marked, meaning if you really had an insane hankering to annoy a cop you can certainly do it without
an app. It's also worth reminding officers that Waze users are simply having a perfectly legal conversation (just like flashing headlights
or even holding up signs
is legal), at least for now.
With the "mean old citizens are stalking us" defense apparently not working so well, some law enforcement agencies are turning to another, more clever (or so they think) solution: pollute Waze's data with false police speed trap locations. Officers in Miami have apparently taken to downloading the Waze app themselves just so they can flood the app with inaccurate data
"Hundreds of officers in the Miami area have downloaded the app, which lets users provide real-time traffic information and identify areas where police are conducting speed enforcement. The local NBC affiliate says the officers are flooding Waze with false information on their activity in an attempt to make the app's information less useful to drivers. Disclosing the location of police officers "puts us at risk, puts the public at risk, because it's going to cause more deadly encounters between law enforcement and suspects," Sgt. Javier Ortiz, president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, tells the news outlet."
This was apparently something some Los Angeles homeowners tried as well late last year, when they reported false congestion
to the app in the hopes of lessening local traffic load. Of course the very nature of crowd-sourced apps like this involves repeated false reports and unreliable users being weeded out not only by the system itself, but by more trustworthy reports from reliable Waze users with higher scores
. Even if this dumb idea worked, and all Miami Waze users were confused into thinking speed traps were everywhere
, wouldn't they drive slower and ruin revenue generation (what this is really
All the Miami police force is doing is wasting time and taxpayer money in a war on perfectly legal conversation. In fact, you could argue they're doing something worse by eroding their own safety. As it stands the Waze app isn't specifically singling out speed traps -- it allows users to mark any
police location. As in, it allows users to mark any emergency vehicle at the side of the road for any reason, notifying Waze users that they should slow down. If this was truly about public safety and not revenue generation, you'd think this would at least be part of the conversation.
Still, law enforcement associations are increasing pressure on politicians (like Chuck Schumer
), and Google's shown at least some flexibility on this
. For me personally, it's all kind of a moot point anyway. I drove from New York to Seattle and back again last summer and found that police move positions so frequently, Waze probably indicated an accurate speed trap location around a third of the time anyway. Still, you'd hate to see any app made less useful just because it hurts a police department's ability to turn public protection into a major revenue stream.