The Sheriffs are quite upset about the growing use of Google’s Waze Traffic Software that is being increasingly used to update drivers about hidden speed traps. A campaign is currently underway that will ‘persuade’ the search giant turning off the service.
Sheriffs are actively campaigning to pressure Google Inc. to turn off a feature on its Waze traffic software that warns drivers when police are nearby. They argue one of the technology industry’s most popular mobile apps is putting officers’ lives in danger from would-be police killers who can find where their targets are parked.
Google had purchased Waze last year for a handsome price of $966 million. Waze is a neat combination of GPS navigation and social networking. The traffic update system that relies on social media cues is actively used by about 50 million users in over 200 countries. The users not only make use of, but regularly contribute information to Waze making it one of the most accurately updated traffic information services out there.
Waze offers a number of free services for real-time traffic guidance and warnings about nearby congestion, car accidents, speed traps or traffic cameras, construction zones, potholes, stalled vehicles or unsafe weather conditions.
Needless to say, speed-hungry and reckless motorists too routinely turn refer to Waze to gather information about possible speed traps and hidden cameras. This information allows the drivers to merely slow down at the junctions where cops could be lurking to catch them. However, this is not the sole reason the Sheriffs are campaigning against the service.
Sergio Kopelev, a reserve deputy sheriff in Southern California says Waze is also a stalking app for law enforcement. Though there is no recorded or proven connection between an attack on a traffic cop and Waze, law enforcers like Kopelev feel it’s only a matter of time before anti-social elements will be able to track cops and their locations using information of Waze and attack them.
Sheriffs are seeking support among other law enforcement trade groups to persuade Google to disable the police-reporting function. The emerging rally once again places Google squarely in the midst of ongoing global debate about public safety, consumer rights and privacy.
Interestingly, Waze doesn’t identify a police officer; it only indicates the presence of a police officer at the marked location. Waze users can merely mark police presence on maps without much distinction other than “visible” or “hidden.” Other users only see a police icon, but it’s not immediately clear whether police are there for a speed trap, a sobriety check or merely on a lunch break. Since police are anyways operating in public spaces, it might be a tough call for the legal system to order the service to stop the flow of information.
Though it doesn’t break any laws, Waze could still be a potential hazard for other drivers. Merely removing the facility to mark the presence of police officers, Google could make Waze a little safer for cops, pedestrians and law-abiding drivers.
[Image Credit | Ted Bridis, Waze]