The New York Police Department (NYPD) sent a cease and desist letter to Google last week, demanding that the company stop allowing its customers to report police checkpoints using their GPS apps.
The report mentioned Google Maps and Waze, the popular GPS app that allows users to share information about hazards on the road, including the presence of police. The app allows drivers to pinpoint the exactly location of police and report sightings to fellow drivers, saving untold people from speeding tickets and arrests due to victimless crimes.
However, the NYPD says that Google is helping users break the law. The letter sent to Google last week focused specifically on the issue of impaired drivers.
The statement read:
“The NYPD has become aware that the Waze Mobile application ...currently permits the public to report DWI checkpoints throughout New York City and map these locations. Accordingly, we demand that Google LLC, upon receipt of this letter, immediately remove this function from the Waze application.”
“Further, the NYPD requests that Google take every necessary precaution to ensure that GPS data of NYPD DWI checkpoints, or any other substantially similar data, is not uploaded or posted at a future time on the Waze Mobile application, google.com, Google maps, or any other associated internet/websites, or web portals and platforms under Google LLC’s, its partners’ sponsors’ or affiliates’ control.”
Ann Prunty, NYPD’s Acting Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters and author of the letter, says users who post data of police locations could be breaking the law:
“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 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.”
“The NYPD will pursue all legal remedies to prevent the continued posting of this irresponsible and dangerous information,” Prunty added.
The app has infuriated police for years because it allows users to gain an upper hand on the harassment and revenue generating schemes police often engage in. Now with the recent tensions between police and the public hitting new heights, the push against this equalizing technology has been stronger than ever before.
Google purchased the app in 2013 for $966 million and has kept it more or less the same in its functionality ever since. With calls from police to ban the app or remove its most popular function, many Waze users are concerned that Google will give in to government demands as they have in the past.
When reached for comment, Google told NBC:
“We believe that informing drivers about upcoming speed traps allows them to be more careful and make safer decisions when they’re on the road.”