The New York Police Department (NYPD) over the weekend sent a cease-and-desist letter to Google, demanding that it stop giving away the location of police driving while impaired (DWI) checkpoints.
According to Streetsblog, the letter came from Ann Prunty, NYPD’s Acting Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters.
From the letter, which has since 404’ed from a number of news sites but which CNET still has up:
This letter serves to put you on notice that the NYPD has become aware that the Waze Mobile application, a community-driven GPS navigation application owned by Google LLC, currently permits the public to report DWI checkpoints throughout New York City and map these locations on the application.
Those checkpoints are part of New York’s Vision Zero initiative, the letter said: a program to eliminate traffic fatalities by, among other things, enforcing DWI laws. It’s putting “significant resources” into the effort, the letter said, and Waze users are gumming it up by giving away their unannounced road blocks and thereby helping drunk drivers evade them.
That interference could cross over into the criminal, the NYPD said:
Individuals who post the locations of DWI checkpoints may be engaging in criminal conduct since such actions could be intentional attempts to prevent and/or impair the administration of the 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. Revealing the location of checkpoints puts those drivers, their passengers, and the general public at risk.
The letter was sent following Google’s launch of a new feature on its Google Maps app, alerting drivers to the location of police speed cameras. The new speed camera alerts began showing up on Google Maps last week.
This isn’t the first time that police have tried to get Google to muzzle Waze: In 2015, US 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.
Acquired by Google in 2013, Waze describes itself as “the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app”.
The GPS navigation app relies on community-generated content that comes from a user base that, as of June 2013, reportedly consisted of nearly 50 million. It lets people report accidents, traffic jams, and speed and police traps, while its online map editor gives drivers updates on roads, landmarks, house numbers, and the cheapest nearby fuel.
In response to the NYPD’s letter, Google sent this statement to CBS2:
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.
21 comments on “Police tell Waze to stop pinpointing their checkpoints”
I know of police that mark down that they are all over. Effectively making people slow down WITHOUT any actual police presence. The virtual police are more effective at reducing speeding than the ones that jump out like a cat and cause traffic delays to give a ticket for doing 75 in a 65, while cruisers travel at 80-90 most of the time. Then there is almost a guaranteed accident will happen as people go by rubber necking, and taking pictures to show their boss why they are late to work.
I’ve seen where a hidden police cruiser pulled out of the woods alongside a state highway and crash directly into an oncoming car! Other drivers swerved to avoid being hit!
A while back there were reports of police tinkering with Waze—they originated in Miami, as I recall. We wrote it up. At the time, Waze said it was futile, given that false reports and those who make them will be crowd-sourced into oblivion. I’m not surprised to hear you say that, regardless, there are police who make false reports on Waze. But what do your police contacts say, if anything, about having their false reports downvoted?
Hahahaha, maybe they just wait until one of the reports gets enough downvotes to convince people it’s a geniune fake control, and thus perfect for a rat-run…
…then set their roadblock up right there.
Waze counts on people to verify things (police, object in road, crash) or they time out eventually (I expect). And you are supposed to help by click, that is it is or isn’t still there. (I don’t use it personally, but a travel buddy does, so I learned a little)
Any time I see a reported police location with no actual police, I always remove it from the Waze map. It only takes one user removal. As long as there are more Waze users reporting or removing police presence than police that are trying to spam fake locations, it will work out fine.
Their displeasure at having their checkpoints exposed proves that the police interest in traffic track stops is not really about preventing unsafe behavior but as amother revenue stream for the local politicians to spend.
Not necessarily. If the result is that people slow down without needing to be stopped…how would that increase revenue for anyone?
The EMTs, hospitals, tow trucks, and body shops will theoretically lose potential income.
NOT INCREASE, DECREASE. The town council (or equiv) loses the money they would have made by means of a speed trap.Now they either have to go to the taxpayers for revenue or do without.
If everyone drives the speed limit, we’ll never get a fancier court house than the town next door. Safety makes great rationalization but money is the real goal.
Waze causes drivers to slow down to avoid accidents. I guess the police would rather have drivers text or broadcast call their friends to warn them. There goes the ‘don’t text while driving/don’t use a phone while driving’ laws. So much for logic! Guess you don’t need an Master’s degree to be a cop.
@Liz, I was with you until your last sentence. Comparable to any profession with a few bad eggs, most cops are basically good people trying to do an honest job. There’s a daily element of danger to their job that you and I don’t face.
There’s that jerk from accounting who always steals people’s lunches…if he were a cop he’d be a bad cop also. Instead he’s the jerk in accounting.
Disclaimer: I don’t use Waze so what I’m about to say might not be relevant or possible.
This letter is useless. Even if Google was to remove a the ability to report road blocks, users can still report accidents and traffic jams. All that’s going to happen is that a particular type of accident or traffic jam will become code for a road block. That’s if there’s any metadata that forms part of the report.
While I don’t think there is anything that dynamic in wayze, I could see “car stopped on side of road” being used that way.
People in Sanata Cruz CA used to yell “7 UP”, when police would walk into a the San Lorenzo park (before legalization) as there were 7 points on the PD’s badges. So yeah, people will find a way to rat out the cops that won’t get you in trouble. And everybody’s name was Ray 🙂
The law is not the NYPD’s side. There is a large body of case law establishing a first amendment right to put up signs warning of speed traps, check points etc. and doing it virtually on Waze is protected by this. Of course Google could cave to pressure but that will cost them users.
Serve and protect. Not entrap, hide, and retaliate. If police were REALLY concerned about DWI, they would FIRE officers convicted of it, they would patrol bars especially at closing time, they would make themselves VISIBLE as drivers tend to comply with the law when it’s around and more often than not will slow down. I guess priority is from high to low: ticket, arrest, protect somewhat..this is very subjective, and well, what is the definition of ‘serve’ really.. oh serve warrants I suppose?
Pretty sure a DWI checkpoint meets the definition of “visible”….
That vision zero initiative is a global order agenda that stems back to a group of global elites that meet on a program called “Agenda 2030” look it up. It is a control of population to force people to do things that they want.
Dirty Driving: Starring Patrick Swayze using Waze. Nobody puts Waze in a corner!
It’s all about the money.
Police wants to collect their tax.
They could not care less about your safety.
Not saying that individual officers don’t care for your and their safety, but the police as a body are motivated to pull you over and give you a ticket if they can.
I use the Dunkin’ Donuts app to find out where the cops are