The Waze Driving App: Can Keeping Tabs on Cops Promote Crime?

Article by Becky Errico | 597 words

In a world where convenience is key, we have apps for everything. One of the million apps that is getting a lot of attention lately is the driving app Waze. The program, which is owned by Google, has over fifty million users around the world, says DailyTech.com. Aside from giving directions, it also creates a network among drivers. They can alert other users as to where red light cameras, traffic jams, construction and police officers are located. It’s the last one that has some cops worrying.

Waze Screenshot

Credit: TechnologyGuide.com

Police Officers vs. Waze

The controversy began when Police Chief Charlie Beck from Los Angeles spoke out against the app. His worry is that, by being able to pinpoint where cops are located, Waze could be used track and harm police officers, says The Washington Post.

His concerns arose shortly after the deaths of two officers in New York. In late December, Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were shot and killed by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who then killed himself. Before the shooting, Brinsley uploaded a screenshot from Waze where the cop logos were present. However, it is not believed that Waze was a contributing factor to the officers’ deaths since Brinsley got rid of his phone more than two miles from where the crime took place, The Washington Post adds.

The worry of his fellow officers compelled Beck to take action. At the end of last year, he wrote a letter to Google. In it, he raises his concerns for the first time, mentioning Brinsley and what happened in New York, as TheGuardian.com reports. Soon, there were other officers that joined Beck in questioning how Waze is used. Sheriff Mike Brown of Bedford County, Virginia, and Reserve Deputy Sheriff Sergio Kopelev of Southern California brought up their concerns at a National Sheriffs Association conference, reports CBSNews.com. Now police officials are going to Google once more, this time asking the company to disable the tracker for officers.

Defending Waze’s Police Tracker

Some are going up against the officers, specifically Beck, saying there are ulterior motives as to why they want to disable the tracker. According to TheGuardian.com, some individuals believe that police officers simply don’t want people warning one another of speed traps. These warnings don’t help the officers make revenue.

As The Los Angeles Times reports, Waze defended the tracker, claiming that it promotes safe driving. When police officers are nearby, people drive more slowly and cautiously. It can allow drivers to change their driving habits and save money.

Policing and Privacy

Amidst this controversy, it’s worth noting the Los Angeles Police Department has been under the microscope before for some of its practices. Both the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department have been sued over their automatic license plate reader. According to David Maass, a member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and a lawsuit against the LAPD and the LASD, both departments have a history of neglecting to publically share how they use their technology. This is concerning since their license plate readers can track millions of drivers, says TheGuadian.com.

The users and the network are what make Waze so appealing. They allow information to be shared quickly and easily. However, as is often the case with networking technology, privacy becomes a concern. While sharing information about traffic accidents and road closures could help fellow drivers, the recent controversy over Waze forces us to ask what kinds of information are better left unshared. After all, perhaps a cop tracker could be used to help people get away with crimes far worse than speeding.

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