App Challenged

Cops fight back


Waze is a popular real-time traffic-reporting application from Google that relies on drivers to self-report traffic, accidents, red light cameras, and police. It will soon lose that last feature if some cops get their way.

Police officials from around the country want Waze's cop-tracking feature shut off, saying it endangers the lives of officers. In December, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck wrote a letter to Google saying the app had been used in the slaying of two NYPD officers, though that claim has not been corroborated. His feelings were echoed by Mike Brown, the sheriff of Bedford County, Virginia, who called Waze a "police stalker" app and threatened litigation.

These arguments may be difficult to sustain in court. Judges have frequently protected the rights of citizens to hold signs ahead of speed traps or blink their headlights alerting motorists to upcoming police. Additionally, police scanner traffic is publicly available, and a cop can be summoned to your door with a simple call to 911.

Waze has defended the feature by claiming motorists drive more carefully when they know a police officer may be in the area. Some police departments fully support the app. The cops in Mountain View, California, where Google is headquartered, even created their own Waze account specifically to inform the public of officer locations.