Police

Senators "Ask" Apple to Stop Selling DUI Checkpoint Apps

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From ComputerWorld:

Four U.S. senators Tuesday called on Apple to yank iPhone and iPad apps that help drunken drivers evade police, saying the programs are "harmful to public safety."…

Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Tom Udall (D-NM) asked Scott Forstall, the head of Apple's iPhone software group, to pull an unspecified number of apps from the company's App Store. The senators also made similar requests of Google's CEO Eric Schmidt and Research in Motion's (RIM) co-CEOs, James Balsillie and Michael Lazaridis…..

The four had problems with apps that included alerts of upcoming sobriety checkpoints. It's unclear how many apps are in the senators' sights—they identified just one, PhantomALERT—but there are dozens that warn drivers of user-reported speed traps, roving radar-equipped patrol cars and accidents. Many integrate the smartphone's integrated GPS to display police and accident locations…..

"I think this is a knee-jerk reaction," said Joe Scott, the CEO OF PhantomALERT…"PhantomALERT is a 100% legal service. If they really understood what we are doing and aim to achieve they would actually support us."

Scott argued that his company's app was doing little more than broadcasting the information distributed by the police themselves.

"Many police departments promote or advertise DUI [driving under the influence] crackdowns through the media as PSAs or through PR," Scott said. "We are just taking it a bit further and pushing the info to drivers through GPS and smart phone technology.

Apple's annoying app policy gives Senators the ability to apply pressure at just the point of Apple themselves, as Apple officially only lets sanctioned software on their devices.

Radley Balko has heretically suggested drunk driving laws in general might not be such a great thing.

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  1. The difference being that Google removing the app from the Android Market is meaningless, since there are dozens of independent app stores for Android, most of whom don’t have business before these senators’ committees.

    But keep telling me how Apple sticks it to the man, liberal hippoe douches.

      1. Doh! My first double post.

    1. Yes, I have always wondered how Apple can pull monopolistic stunts like this, and keep their operating systems proprietary, while being deemed “good,” whereas Microsoft was villified as an Evil Monopolist for loading a free web browser with Windows. Shows you what good marketing and PR can sometimes accomplish.

      1. I’m neither lauding nor chiding either party, but those situations don’t seem comparable to me. Apple controls the software that runs on their own hardware. Microsoft was controlling (in a weaker sense) the software that runs on other people’s hardware.

        1. Uh, it’s not Apple’s hardware anymore after I buy it.

    2. But keep telling me how Apple sticks it to the man, liberal hippoe douches.

      Unless by “the man”, you mean Mr. W. Gates, I’ve never heard that.

  2. I like how they are asking for action. Normally they’d just make a law to make them illegal. Which is probably step 2.

    Step 2 also involves screwing with some unrelated apps as collateral damage.

    But seriously, it’s good that the senators are asking a business to do something. That’s a legitamit, and honest role of government.

    1. Bearing in mind that the business also has the right to tell those Senators to go fuck themselves.

      1. Yeah, the same way a small business owner has the right to tell the mob to go fuck themselves when they are ‘asking’ for protection money.

        1. Sad but unfortunately true. You’d probably get screwed less by the mob than these people.

          1. The mob is basically a government substitute, and they arguably do a better job of it (they certainly don’t do a dramatically worse job of it…).

            Thus why the government tries to stamp them out.

  3. Police departments are usually required to post notice of these checkpoints to pass legal muster.

    And yeah, the way Apple has handled its app store has turned me from a $20K/year spender on Apple to not another friggin dime. I’m about to celebrate my first anniversary, with an extra $12K in my pocket.

    1. Twenty grand?!? WTF were you buying, MacBookPros for every room in your house, including the bathrooms?

      1. Business dude… But I’ve also stopped recommending Apple products to schools. Coincidentally, when everyone else is recommending all-Apple, it’s a competitive advantage to be able to tell the schools they can save a lot of money by going with netbooks and cloud or cross-platform software. If the replacement rate is anything less than 3x the Apple equipment, they save money.

    2. I could never get past the whole one button mouse thing.

  4. Thanks Senator, I never heard of those apps for my droid! Time to go shopping!

    1. Amazon is giving away free apps today for their grand opening. Probably not that one though.

      1. Good to know, thanks.

      2. The app is already free on Apple. At least it was today.

        Thanks to these idiot Senators for promoting the product for free. (OK, anything they do is on the taxpayer’s dime.)

  5. That’s funny, they never asked people handing out information about jury nullification to stop, they just skipped right to the censorship part. I guess Apple is too big to fail be censored.

  6. Many cop cars these days are getting GPS locating systems. Can someone make an application that tracks them? I’d buy that for $0.99. Fuck off, public safety.

    1. I’ve been saying this for years – someone needs to build a detector for cop radios. They’re all going to emit a certain signature of radiation, and all you’d have to do is monitor the spectrum for it. Even when they’re not talking, the radio’s IF stages are probably radiating a bit, and I’m sure the now-standard data terminals talk back to HQ on a regular basis.

      If someone wants to part with 250k I can probably have it working in a year 🙂

  7. …as Apple officially only lets sanctioned software onto their devices.

    That’s not true. Apple only “sanctions” apps that they sell through the app store. It is no different than Walmart or any other retailer “sanctioning” the products it sells on its shelves. Retailers get sued if they sell something that they never tested and which had serious and obvious flaws. Apple wanted to bring that same level of basic integrity to the software industry.

    If an iPhone users wants to use apps outside the app store, they certainly can, it’s just that Apple has no legal or moral obligation to support that process in anyway. If Apple does sell the software, then Apple’s reputation is on the line if the software fails, allows a security compromise or seems morally dubious. Every single retailer or seller of every kind makes choices in what they sell. Apple is no different and shouldn’t be held to a different standard.

    The iPhone business model isn’t just selling hardware, it’s selling a complete hardware, software and content package that protects the interest of customers, content creators, developers and, yes, Apple. That business model requires a system of oversight and Apple is the only one that can provide it.

    The tradeoff is that the Apple oversight becomes a potential choke point which is subject to control by Apple or those like the good senators with control over Apple itself. So far, it seems like the tradeoff is acceptable.

    After all, if the political culture supports controlling software like the good senators wish, does it really matter how the software is distributed? If enough people want to censor apps, technological systems and business models won’t really matter much. It would seem that any system of software accountability can be exploited by the state to limit software choices.

    1. Bull. Steam isn’t responsible if I buy a buggy piece of crap game through them. Luckily any idiot can go to metacritic and read dozens of reviews before they buy. I assume it is the same for smartphone apps. I wouldn’t know because I still have my lightweight and durable flip phone that fits in my pocket and has a battery that lasts 5 days rather than 5 hours (and was free with contract).

      1. “Free with contract” means the cost for it is rolled into your monthly charges.

        1. Actually the cost is rolled into everybody’s monthly charges, not mine in particular. The point is I didn’t pay a couple hundred dollars for it with contract.

    2. Uh, no. Apple has extremely specific rules on what your app can do, such as running two at once (you can’t background an app, you have to close it) and therefore must rigidly control what they release. If you jailbreak your iPhone so that you can install anything you want, I believe that instantly voids the warranty.

      Apple is about control. They have their reasons for this, some of which are totally valid for their business model, but they control the shit out of their products.

      1. Apple’s business model to vet hardware and software before including it on their platforms. That’s what they’ve always done. Microsoft doesn’t do that. Not to the same extent, anyway. Apple’s concern is technical. Apple doesn’t want one application interfering with another or having the user install half a dozen versions of their MS .NET equal API to accommodate reckless software developers. Apple offers a choice to consumers.

        I choose not to Apple either, but they’re not doing anything wrong.

        1. It’s technical concerns that make them refuse to allow Firefox or Chrome browsers on their devices too, right? And the apps for downloading porn, don’t forget those. Lots of technical concerns there too.

          1. You got me there. I don’t have an Apple computer handy to test this, but I understand that Firefox and Chrome will run on Apple’s desktop OS X. OS X is a *nix child. But that’s their desktop OS.

            When you get into mobile devices it’s hit and miss on all platforms. A lot of cross-platform applications are written in Java or Flash these days. But the version of the Java of Flash supported from one mobile OS to another varies.

            I don’t see anything politically motivated about how that’s working or not.

            1. I don’t have an Apple computer handy to test this, but I understand that Firefox and Chrome will run on Apple’s desktop OS X.

              Yes, they do. OS X remains a reasonably open platform. IOS, not so much.

            2. Google had an iOS version of Chrome all ready to go but Apple refused to put it in the App Store. They do not allow competition with Apple-written apps.

              1. If you’re looking for a Safari iOS alternative, I recommend Mercury browser. There are several others available, too, including Opera… just not the same level of fame as Firefox or Chrome.

        2. Oh, and iOS devices are nearly always the first mobile devices to get compromised during hacking competitions. Before Windows Mobile, before Android, before Blackberry. So the illusion of security is just that, an illusion.

      2. you can’t background an app, you have to close it

        Outdated at this point. Multitasking’s been available since 4.0 (nearly a year now), although only a handful of apps really use it, mostly for pushing alerts or updating locations. What you say is correct about Apple’s control-freakery, just not on this count.

        If you jailbreak your iPhone so that you can install anything you want, I believe that instantly voids the warranty.

        Technically, although I’ve yet to hear of Apple going down that route for users. Their preferred strategy is just making it more difficult and painful to jailbreak, either by patching holes or constantly introducing new minor versions with added features. There are a ton of ways to void warranties on computers in general (depending on the vendor/brand, opening the case, installing Linux, scraping off that “Warranty Void if Removed” sticker), but most of them are empty threats.

        Back when I still jailbroke my phone, I did a factory reset before taking it in with some dead pixels early in its lifetime. Problem solved. (And it turned out to be smart, anyway, since they just gave me a new phone.)

    3. If an iPhone users wants to use apps outside the app store, they certainly can, it’s just that Apple has no legal or moral obligation to support that process in anyway.

      Shannon, you don’t know what you’re talking about. An iPhone or iPad cannot install an app from any other source but the App Store without jailbreaking.

      There’s also nothing immoral or illegal about a private university imposing a speech code that bans criticism of homosexuality during campus activities or in college-sponsored publications, but I suspect your attitude would be slightly different.

      1. An iPhone or iPad cannot install an app from any other source but the App Store without jailbreaking.

        Not true. If you ante up the hundred bucks to join the Apple Developer Connection, you can load anything you want on your phone without damaging it.

        1. If you ante up the hundred bucks to join the Apple Developer Connection

          And a $1200+ Apple desktop/laptop to compile it on.

          (Or maybe go through some complicated, unsupported cross-compilation process.)

      2. “There’s also nothing immoral or illegal about a private university imposing a speech code that bans criticism of homosexuality during campus activities or in college-sponsored publications”

        Provided that this is truly the decision of a truly private university, and that they were not “encouraged” by threats of lawsuits under laws imposed by government or the threatened withdrawal of government funding. Otherwise it is thinly-disguised censorship.

  8. As soon as I saw Chuck’s name I went “of course“. Chuck is so loathsome that he’s enraging me right now just before tennis. That might actually be good, though. Maybe play harder.

    1. I finally watched Waco: The Rules of Engagement a while ago. Shumer’s behavior during the hearings is repulsive. The State can do no wrong, how dare those religious zealots get in the way of ATF/FBI bullets, etc.

      Looks like he still feels the same way ? proof that you can’t cure a psychopath.

  9. Maybe some of us just want to avoid police checkpoints, and pretend this is a free country.

  10. First of all, FUCK YOU, CHARLIE SCHUMER, HARRY RIED, FRANK LAUTENBERG, AND TOM UDAL. Go read the first amendment for the first time, you tax-sucking parasites.

    Secondly, the app store doesn’t report to Forstall, it reports to Eddy Cue. Forstall’s people handle the Apple software that goes on the iPhone, not anybody else’s.

    Thirdly, it’s Steve Jobs that makes this kind of policy decision, not any of the senior VPs.

    Did I remember to tell the Gang of Four to go get fucked?

    -jcr

    1. I would like to thank the four idiot senators for making me aware of this awesome app which I just downloaded.

      1. Me three. I had no idea this kind of app existed. Now I’ve got two (for free!)

  11. is it me, or is Chuck Schumer the biggest fucking douchebag ever elected to senate? Jumpin Jesus on a pogo-stick I wanna just punch him in the face every time he opens his mouth.

    1. It’s not just you

      1. i feel better now.

    2. Senator Chuck Schumer is the reason I question the collective intelligence of the state of New York.

      1. You mean all those Downstaters, right?

      2. Don’t blame me. I didn’t vote for *uck Schumer.

  12. Sad to see only democrats supporting this. Not entirely surprising, of course. Still, I’d expect republicans to do a “for the children” whine over this, too.

    Of course Apple will proudly cave in to their whining (“for the children” of course).

    1. DUI is bi partisan insanity. I know people from both sides who are incapable of thinking rationally about the subject.

    2. Well duh, Democrats have always been worst then republicans. The problem with some libertarians is that their liberal views on social issues make them hate Republicans while making excuses for Democrats.

      I on the other hand make excuses for Republicans while hating Democrats. The DNC is after all the party of gun control, anti-smoking, anti-rich, anti-wealth, anti-corporation, anti-business, pro-union, pro-insane environmentalism, pro-trial lawyer, etc, etc, etc.

      With Republicans you can negotiate, maybe they’ll let you keep a strip bar in a seedy part of town. But with Democrats there’s no negotiation to be had, look at Bloomberg’s (Democrat all his life, then RINO, then “independent” i.e. leftwing nazi) ban on smoking in Times Square and public parks.

      Hopeless Drama over 10% Cut in HOPE Scholarships.
      http://libertarians4freedom.bl…..-hope.html

      1. Okay, your post here is more liberty friendly. The operative word is more. You still don’t get that republicans, except for Ron Paul, are pro-union, anti-business, pro-gun control, pro IRS, etc.

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  14. This isn’t surprising. These types of assholes love thought crimes and DWI is almost like the ultimate thought crime. Even if no property is damaged or lives are lost, it’s all about what could happen.

  15. Apple’s annoying app policy gives Senators the ability to apply pressure

    What did Apple expect, sashaying around town in those seductive iPhones and bewitching iPads. They were just asking for it.

  16. Radley Balko has heretically suggested drunk driving laws in general might not be such a great thing.

    Don’t you mean Radley Huffko?

  17. Crashing into another car and killing people should be a crime. Yes. Making it extra special bad because the driver was drunk instead of just a bad driver, sleepy or texting? No.

    1. Good thing you don’t apply that to bringing a gun to a crowded shopping mall, closing your eyes, spinning around, and then firing in whatever direction you wind up facing.

      1. Driving a car and shooting a loaded gun are not even remotely the same thing.

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