Cops ask Google to turn off Waze’s ‘police-stalker’ feature

googles waze accused of stealing data from rival traffic app police map
Waze’s crowd-sourced maps (iOS, Android, and Windows Phone) tell users lots of key information, from traffic congestion and road construction, to checking in on friends to set up a car pool to work. It also alerts users of when there are police officers around, which some members of law enforcement consider dangerous, according to the Associated Press.

A handful of officers around the U.S. want Google, the company that recently acquired Waze for $966 million, to shut down what Sheriff Mike Brown from Bedford County, Virginia calls the “police stalker” feature. Brown and other officers claim that the ability to report cops’ locations on Waze maps could potentially endanger officers and allow criminals to avoid areas where cops are on the lookout. Brown, who also happens to be the chairman of the National Sheriffs Association technology committee, believes it’s Google’s civic duty to shut down this particular Waze feature.

“The police community needs to coordinate an effort to have the owner, Google, act like the responsible corporate citizen they have always been and remove this feature from the application even before any litigation or statutory action,” said Brown.

Fellow officer Sergio Kopelev, a reserve deputy sheriff in southern California, agrees that the police reporting feature could pose a danger to cops. Kopelev calls it his “personal jihad” to get the feature removed from the app. The idea of people tracking cops on Waze has troubled him for some time, he said, but the recent shootings of NYPD officers in New York prompted him to speak out.

For its own part, Waze says the police-reporting feature is meant to keep users safe, and can even prevent accidents, improve emergency response times, and ease traffic congestion.

At this point, the feature remains intact, but other similar features that aim to help drivers avoid cops while speeding or driving under the influence have been banned, after pressure from the government.

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