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A few months back I downloaded a cool traffic app called Waze. At its heart is a basic GPS program like Google Maps, but it adds a social networking layer to provide real-time information to drivers. Unsurprisingly, Google bought the company, so you can expect to see the two apps integrated soon.
Here’s how it works: When I get in my new Maserati (okay, 2001 Toyota… whatever), I open Waze and it shows any traffic events occurring in my area. As I drive, warnings pop up for vehicles on the side of the road, freeway crashes, and delays. If I see a new traffic snag, I can report it through Waze to help other drivers going my way.
The app also tells me if a police car is waiting a half-mile down the road. Unsurprisingly, this last feature has several police organizations upset:
Google-owned Waze, although offering a host of traffic data, doubles as a Digital Age version of the police band radio.
Authorities said the app amounts to a “police stalker” in the aftermath of last month’s point-blank range murder of two New York Police Department officers. That’s according to the message some officials gave over the weekend during the National Sheriffs Association meeting in Washington.
”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,” Sheriff Mike Brown of Bedford County, Virginia, told the gathering, according to an account provided by The Associated Press. Brown, who chairs the National Sheriffs Association’s technology committee, said the app’s police-reporting feature renders it a “police stalker.”
Later in the article, the police admit that the NYPD killer didn’t use Waze to target his victims, but hey, we should ban this feature anyway. While critics use the most extreme and emotional hypothetical to sell their ban, it’s hard not to think this is more about revenue than safety.
The app indicates red-light and speed cameras in addition to manned speed traps, causing Waze users to drive with extra care in those areas. If public safety is the state’s only concern, police should be thrilled at anything that might rein in reckless drivers.
Speaking constitutionally, it’s my right to share public information with fellow drivers, even if it might make government’s job more difficult. I’m unclear why police should be granted an expectation of privacy while the general public is not. Waze is just a high-tech version of telling friends to slow down when driving through Wikieup, Ariz., since their only cop wants to buy a new speedboat.
What do you think, Ricochetti? Do the cops have any case at all here?