NYPD Orders Google to Trash Checkpoint Warnings

Leroy Wright
February 9, 2019

Authorities in the Big Apple are upset that Google's hyperpopular navigation app, Waze, gives people the ability to call out and share DWI checkpoints.

'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. Many users view it as a harmless way to avoid getting speeding tickets, but others use the app to point out police checkpoints, including those setup for DUI prevention.

"The NYPD has become aware that the Waze Mobile application. now permits the public to report DWI checkpoints throughout New York City and map these locations", the letter says, as quoted by StreetsBlog.

While the NYPD's letter primarily focused on Waze supposedly assisting drunk drivers, in a statement to The Verge, Google pointed out the feature is mostly for reporting speed traps.

Google sent a statement to PIX11 that read, "Safety is a top priority when developing navigation features at Google".

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The NYPD's concerns are shared by the National Sheriff's Association, which emphasizes on its website: "There is NO legitimate reason for Waze to have the police locator feature!"

This isn't the first time that police have tried to get Google to muzzle Waze: In 2015, United States police asked Google to pull the plug on citizens using the mobile app to "stalk" police locations, regardless of whether they're on their lunch break, assisting with a broken-down vehicle on the highway, or hiding in wait to nab speeders.

This means users can report speed traps, accidents, traffic, police activity and other alerts on their route, which will appear for other users in the app. In the case of the latter, Google's own Waze app has had a similar function since 2016. It's unknown whether it plans to bring over the DWI checkpoint feature from Waze. The app has long tracked this kind of information.

Waze added, "There is no separate functionality for reporting police speed traps and DUI/DWI checkpoints - the Waze police icon represents general police presence".

The NYPD letter adds that they will not hesitate to pursue further legal action if Waze continues to provide what it characterizes as "irresponsible and risky information". In 2015, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck criticized the application and claimed that its existence could jeopardize the safety of police officers as it is "not always in the public's interest to know where police are operating".

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