Police demand Google remove speed trap, drunk driver checkpoint alerts

Drivers have been alerted to speed camera locations through the Waze app.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

The City of New York Police Department (NYPD) has asked Google to stop providing alerts to users when they are coming up to speed cameras and sobriety checkpoints.

According to a letter sent by the NYPD to the tech giant and seen by CBS New York, law enforcement has put Google "on notice" over DWI checkpoints being mapped on the crowd-based traffic app, Waze.

Waze was acquired in 2013 by Google. The app relies on user input to provide traffic, accident, and map data in real-time.

A new feature recently added to the mobile application is the addition of speed camera locations which warn drivers when they are on approach.

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First reported by Android Police in January, the app now permits those on the road to check maps to find speed cameras and will also give drivers an audio cue when they are close to a speed camera. However, it does not appear that the feature is available for all regions.

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The NYPD says that the app "currently permits the public to report DWI checkpoints throughout New York City and map these locations on the application," and "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 agency has slammed this practice as "irresponsible" as it may encourage reckless driving and could be of benefit to drunk drivers as they are being given the opportunity to avoid sobriety checkpoints and speed traps.

"The NYPD will pursue all legal remedies to prevent the continued posting of this irresponsible and dangerous information," the letter added, which has been published by Streets Blog NYC.

In a statement to the New York Times, Google said that safety was a"top priority" and "that informing drivers about upcoming speed traps allows them to be more careful and make safer decisions when they're on the road."

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sobriety checkpoints -- first introduced in the US in the 1980s -- reduced alcohol-related fatal, injury, and property damage crashes by roughly 20 percent in each category.

This is not the first time Google has come under fire due to the Waze app. 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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