Google-owned traffic app Waze, which directs drivers to shortcuts and less-trafficked roads, has come under fire by police forces that want the cop-tracking feature removed.
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck wrote a letter to Google CEO Larry Page on Dec. 30, which the LA Times published, requesting that the feature be removed. “I am writing to alert you that your company’s ‘Waze’ app as currently configured poses a danger to the lives of police officers in the United States. That danger was just demonstrated by its use in the recent assassination of New York Police Department officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.”
The letter was written just days after New York Police Department officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were murdered by gunman Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who approached the officers from behind with no warning.
According to the Waze website, “Waze is the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app.” The website further goes on to describe its services: “After typing in their destination address, users just drive with the app open on their phone to passively contribute traffic and other road data, but they can also take a more active role by sharing road reports on accidents, police traps, or any other hazards along the way, helping to give other users in the area a ‘heads-up’ about what’s to come.”
Users of the app are also able to contribute to the service by plugging in the rough whereabouts of where and when cops are spotted.
“I think people that develop technology have a responsibility also and I just want them to take that into account,” Beck told KTLA in an interview on Tuesday. “Now, whether or not that moves Google, I don’t know.”
Waze spokeswoman Julie Mossler addressed the concerns in a statement published on the LA Times website: “We think very deeply about safety and security and work in partnership with the NYPD and other police and departments of transportation all over the world … to help municipalities better understand what’s happening in their cities in real time. These relationships keep citizens safe, promote faster emergency response and help alleviate traffic congestion.” Mossler further added, “Police partners support Waze and its features, including reports of police presence, because most users tend to drive more carefully when they believe law enforcement is nearby.”
Mossler also confirmed that the app cannot “track” officers’ movements.