New York – Citing criminal conduct concerns, the NYPD is insisting that a new Waze feature that alerts drivers of police checkpoints be removed immediately, warning that failure to do so could result in legal action.
Streets Blog NYC (http://bit.ly/2WNVKpN) reported that Waze recently rolled out speed trap warnings, giving drivers the ability to report police roadblocks to the app which shares that information with its more than 100 million users.
Google, which bought Waze in 2013, began implementing some of the app’s features into its programming in response to user demand, also giving its drivers warning of police presence on their routes.
A letter sent to Google this weekend by Ann Prunty, the NYPD’s acting deputy commissioner for legal matters, demanded the immediate removal of police related features, warning that failure to comply could result in possible legal action.
According to Prunty, revealing police officers’ locations could be considered a criminal offense as it is an intentional attempt to hamper DWI laws, among others.
“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,” wrote Prunty. “Revealing the location of checkpoints puts those drivers, their passengers and the general public at risk.”
While Waze users may be enjoying the ability to evade red light cameras, not everyone is in favor of the idea.
“If Google wants to avoid getting blood on their hands they should become strong partners in the fight for more life-saving traffic safety cameras in New York,” said Amy Cohen of Families for Safe Streets.
Prunty’s letter is not the first attempt by the NYPD to have some of Waze’s functionality disabled. In 2015, the NYPD’s sergeants’ union joined a national sheriff’s group in demanding that Waze remove police warnings after police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were killed in Bedford-Stuyvestant as they sat in their squad car.
Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who was found guilty of murdering the two officers, had reportedly used Waze to track police, although the app was not ultimately linked to the crime, as reported by CBS News (https://cbsn.ws/2WGFebn).
Waze survived that initial attempt to dumb down its features, although members of the Miami Police Department found a novel way to limit the app’s functionality by flooding Waze with bogus reports of police sightings as reported by NBC News (http://bit.ly/2WMLjTC).
To date only France prohibits apps, social media networks, websites and GPS devices from revealing the location of police officers, the result of a law passed in 2017 to curb terrorism.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter.