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NYPD demands that Waze stop including police locations


Department sends a cease-and-desist letter to parent Google over the weekend

Hoch Zwei/Corbis via Getty Images

The New York Police Department has demanded that Google remove a feature from its Waze traffic app that notifies drivers to police checkpoints.

The department sent a cease-and-desist letter to the tech giant over the weekend, according to StreetsBlog NYC.

"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," Acting Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters Ann Prunty wrote in the letter, according to the report. "Accordingly, we demand that Google LLC, upon receipt of this letter, immediately remove this function from the Waze application."

The Waze app works much like Google Maps but it includes crowd-sourced functions that allow users to flag various driving conditions, including accidents, DWI checkpoints, and so-called "speed traps." Google purchased Waze in 2013.

What else did the letter say?

Prunty's letter called the notifications irresponsible.

"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."

Though it wasn't specifically mentioned in the NYPD letter, a new "speed cam" function that warns drivers of speed and red light cameras may be related to the agency's demand, according to speculation made by StreetsBlog.

"The NYPD will pursue all legal remedies to prevent the continued posting of this irresponsible and dangerous information," the letter read, according to the blog post.

What else?

Law enforcement agencies have long decried the use of apps that notify users of officers' locations, citing it could put their lives in danger.

Before cellphones and traffic apps, the practice of flashing headlights to warn other drivers about "speed traps" was popular. Some states have outlawed that practice, leading to a number of legal challenges against the statutes.

In most cases, warning other citizens about the presence of police has been interpreted as protected free speech, according to The First Amendment Encyclopedia.

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