[LEGAL?] Digital Snitching On Police

Category: Privacy

Google has re-ignited a years-old feud with police departments by extending a feature of its Waze navigation app to Google Maps. The New York City Police Department has sent Google a cease-and-desist letter claiming that users “may be engaging in criminal conduct” by interfering with enforcement of traffic laws. Google replies that it merely helps motorists drive more responsibly with fewer delays. Read what’s at issue and form your own opinion…

Is Crowdsourced Driving Advice a Bad Thing?

Before the dawn of the Internet, drivers would flash their headlights at oncoming traffic to warn others, signaling that a speed trap, accident, or some other hazard was just ahead. That's old-school now -- we have smartphones and clever apps to do that and more, with even greater precision. But is that a good thing? Let's look at the pros and cons of tech that helps drivers tip off other drivers.

Founded in 2006, Waze is a GPS navigation app that incorporates real-time input from users in its recommended routes. Travel time estimates are based on users’ actual travel times. Users can mark on Waze maps the locations of accidents, construction bottlenecks, and other pitfalls, to help others avoid traffic jams, and find alternate routes. It's those "other pitfalls" that has NYC cops upset with Google.

The Waze app has always had a feature that lets users flag red-light cameras, speed traps and DUI checkpoints. Google bought Waze in 2013, and began to integrate it with Maps in November, 2018. Icons marking police and camera presences appeared on Maps in January, 2019, and the NYPD swiftly condemned this feature. I'm not sure why it took them 13 years to figure out that 50 million people were already using Waze to do the same thing, but here we are.

Waze integrated with Google Maps

“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 NYPD wrote in its letter. “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.”

Google responded to a New York Times inquiry about the letter that safety was a “top priority” and “that informing drivers about upcoming speed traps allows them to be more careful and make safer decisions when they’re on the road.” Police counter that foreknowledge of enforcement locations only enables drivers to break the law somewhere else.

But Helen Witty, the national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, noted that camera and checkpoint locations are often publicized days or weeks in advance; indeed, several States require police to give such “fair warning.” Witty added, “We want these things publicized… The goal is to make everyone aware that if you drink, don’t drive, and if you drive, don’t drink.”

Public Versus Police - Competing Goals?

That brings up a good question: Is the goal of police to catch people breaking laws, or to discourage law-breaking in the first place? After all, checkpoints catch very few drunk drivers, but lots of tickets are issued for expired plates, broken tail lights, and other minor revenue-generators. Red light cameras are notoriously rigged to maximize revenue.

Many towns use the police department as revenue generators, constantly dragging the local citizens and commuters before the magistrate to pay hundreds in fines for the terrible crimes of rolling through a stop sign at 2 miles per hour, doing 35 in a 30 mph zone, or being a few days late on that annual inspection. I got pulled over once in a nearby town that was notorious for this. I was being careful to obey the speed limit, so I asked the officer why. He said "I thought I heard a noise," and carefully inspected my car for low tire tread and any other signs of non-compliance. He found nothing, and sent me on my way. It was clearly a fishing expedition.

This is not just a personal gripe. A paper published by NYU Law found there is a growing body of evidence to indicate that "local police departments are increasingly being used to provide revenue for municipalities by imposing and collecting fees and fines", and that when pressure is put on police to generate revenue, they solve violent crimes at significantly lower rates.

And not everyone who snitches on traffic cops uses high tech. In 2013, a Texas man was arrested for standing in the median of a six-lane road with a sign that read, “POLICE AHEAD.” The charge of “advertising” on public property was dropped four months later. In 2015, a Seattle man got a $138 ticket for using the word “stop” in his speed trap warning sign.

It's not clear how this challenge to the usage of technology that allows drivers to warn other drivers will play out. What do you think? Should this real-time crowdsourced data, which has long been available via Waze, be included on Google Maps? Do citizens have the right to warn each other of police presences in public places? Even if they can do it legally, is it the right thing to do? Your comments are welcome below.

 
Ask Your Computer or Internet Question

  (Enter your question in the box above.)

It's Guaranteed to Make You Smarter...

AskBob Updates: Boost your Internet IQ & solve computer problems.
Get your FREE Subscription!


Email:

Check out other articles in this category:



Link to this article from your site or blog. Just copy and paste from this box:

This article was posted by on 11 Feb 2019


For Fun: Buy Bob a Snickers.

Prev Article:
[DO IT NOW] Google Password Checkup

The Top Twenty
Next Article:
Why Backup? Here Are NINE Good Reasons (and ANSWERS to YOUR backup questions)

Most recent comments on "[LEGAL?] Digital Snitching On Police"

(See all 38 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

W. Brown
11 Feb 2019

Do you honestly feel safer when impaired drivers can successfully bypass check points?


Posted by:

thenudehamster
11 Feb 2019

A couple of decades ago I was pulled in upstate New York. The officer stated that he 'had me at 72mph' but showed me no evidence. Even the summons to court only had his word. I sent a letter in which I put a motion before the court to dismiss the charge as there was no prima facie case to answer, and heard nothng more.
It was interesting to note that all the cars which were stopped seemed to have out-of-state plates - and there was no 'instant pay' ticket, merely a summons to appear in the local court. I wonder how many motorists paid up because travelling several hundred miles to fight the case was impractical?


Posted by:

R Clark
11 Feb 2019

Retired from 30 years as an expert witness in many
injury cases where a local or state law was violated, I suggest you read those applicable to where you drive.
Search for "Interference with law enforcement."


Posted by:

Daniel Wiener
11 Feb 2019

For most of the 55 years I've been driving, I've fantacized about being able to get warnings of traffic accidents or slowdowns on my route, as well as warnings about hidden police and speed traps. (I didn't bother with radar detectors because they were of questionable value: If you were close enough and in the line-of-sight to detect the police radar, it was close enough to also detect you.)

Then Waze came along, and all my wishes were granted! Instead of checking a freeway map on my computer ahead of a trip to determine the best route, only to have conditions change while in transit due to accidents and jam-ups, Waze provides real-time information and up-to-the-minute recommendations for the fastest path to my destination. Furthermore, it provides extremely accurate estimates of arrival times. It helps me avoid wasting my time, and has undoubtedly saved me many hours and days over the course of each year.

The warnings about police, while not perfect, are generally accurate. There are many false positives (i.e., the police care is no longer there when you pass the indicated location, probably because it has already caught a speeder) but few false negatives. More importantly, it provides out-of-sight data instead of being limited to radar detectors' line-of-sight.

I've often thought that Waze should publish a study (which I'm sure they have lots of accumulated historical data for) showing how many total and per-vehicle hours are annually save because drivers are able to optimize their routes and avoid traffic jams. I suspect that the millions of Waze users have collectively saved tens of billions of dollars that governments would otherwise have had to spend on additional roads and freeway construction in order to provide the equivalent traffic carrying capacity. Localities which short-sightedly cry about lost revenue from drivers who avoid speed traps and other police harassment should instead consider the money they're saving on infrastructure upgrades due to Waze.



Posted by:

Mark S
11 Feb 2019

NYPD doesn't set up checkpoints to increase revenue, they are all about safety. Posting the location of speed enforcement details only encourages drivers to slow down until they pass it, then they're back up to 70 MPH and weaving in and out of traffic. Posting the location of DUI checkpoints encourages drunks to take a different route. The ones who get caught learn that they are not as sober as they thought after a six pack of beer and a half bottle of scotch. It should also be noted that radar detectors are illegal in many states (including NY) for the same reason. Drive safely and you won't have to worry about the checkpoints (or enforcement cameras for that matter).


Posted by:

nick saunders
11 Feb 2019

Down here in Australia we do not have your luxury of a bill of rights (something that those of us with the capacity for free thought lament) however it was always the done thing to warn other road users of police presence with flashing of headlights - and they hated it and booked people for it (still do) - it is now nowhere near as common but I suppose on the flip side warnings are now available via gps and the like.
The pigs (unfortunately that applies to all too many down here) would rather make their 'quota' than have people modify their behaviour via non punitive means.


Posted by:

mikewax
12 Feb 2019

"excess fines shall not be imposed, nor shall cruel and unusual punishments inflicted"
it's absolutely unbelievable that SO MANY of you pretend to righteously defend the law while you SIMULTANEOUSLY show your blatant contempt for it. here in CA there are thousands of innocent motorists whose lives are permanently damaged or even destroyed every day by a criminal state and it's YOUR contempt for the rule of law that allows them to do it.


Posted by:

Earl J
12 Feb 2019

Right on, 𝐍𝐞𝐢𝐥 𝐢𝐧 𝐃𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐚𝐬, and our favorite Latin lurker, 𝐞𝐭 𝐚𝐥. ...
* * *
𝐓𝐨 𝐒𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐭𝐞𝐜𝐭 is quite a wide-ranging purpose; to the point where any action that can "reasonably" be determined 𝐭𝐨 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐭𝐞𝐜𝐭 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐞 can be deemed reasonable for the police to perform in their daily routines.
In my pea-picking mind,
(𝒔𝒉𝒂𝒅𝒆𝒔 𝒐𝒇 𝑻𝒆𝒏𝒏𝒆𝒔𝒔𝒆𝒆 𝑬𝒓𝒏𝒊𝒆 𝑭𝒐𝒓𝒅 - 𝑳𝑶𝑳),
I think we should move to red, white, and blue...
𝐫𝐞𝐝 = stay below 20 (look two seconds ahead and ready to stop at any point)...
𝐰𝐡𝐢𝐭𝐞 = stay below below 50 (look two seconds ahead and adjust accordingly to conditions and traffic)...
𝐛𝐥𝐮𝐞 = (blue) sky is the limit (look two seconds ahead and let highway patrol pick your pieces).
* * *
Government control should never be the answer - although, I don't mind 𝙜𝙤𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙣𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙖𝙙𝙫𝙞𝙘𝙚 in matters in which I have no real expertise...
𝐈 𝐚𝐥𝐰𝐚𝐲𝐬 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐢𝐭...
(grin)
* * *
That's how freedom works, yes?

* * *
Until that time. . .


Posted by:

Tony Nobaloney
12 Feb 2019

I hope you people realize that the cops are the ones mostly messing with the apps. They post a police ahead warning but they are not where they are supposed to be. They are much further up the road or on the other side of the road. The Highway Patrol boys in NYC and outer boroughs have a ball with this.


Posted by:

DON AMES
12 Feb 2019

I used Waze for a short time, but went back to Google maps because Waze used too much mobile data. I like the traffic updates in Google Maps, but hope they don't force other features on me that use my data. I don't necessarily want to spend time in a sobriety checkpoint, but not because I drink, I don't. I don't care about speed traps because I stay with traffic, a little over the speed limit, but not passing the majority. I do care about accidents, lane closures, and other major tie ups. Waze allows you to keep tabs on friends' locations, which is fun, but again that uses a lot of data.


Posted by:

Keith
12 Feb 2019

I see nothing to stop the police from "gaming" the system by reporting many speed-trap & DWI/DUI points to confuse the enemy (us car drivers!). If it made more motorists stick to the limit (or under) it could be considered a safety measure and if it car drivers ignored all the reported spots and got done for driving over the limit (speed or drugs/alcohol) they'd have regained their quota/income.


Posted by:

Anthony DeVor
19 Feb 2019

I don't think that they will do much about waze because if they ban that people can still go out & buy radar detectors or cb radios


Posted by:

Judy L.
20 Feb 2019

You think these rinky dink tickets are a scam? How about cops who "arrest" your cash because it might be "drug" money? They take your cash and you hae to sue to get it back. These cops are nothing more than armed thugs.


Posted by:

Judy L.
20 Feb 2019

You think these rinky dink tickets are a scam? How about cops who "arrest" your cash because it might be "drug" money? They take your cash and you hae to sue to get it back. These cops are nothing more than armed thugs.


Posted by:

JB
28 Feb 2019

I personally believe Waze is a great thing. I am a non drinker or drug user and have more than once been held up in a long line waiting to go through a DWI check point. What a waste of my valuable time!! One time it even made me late for work and my pay was docked.


Posted by:

Dave
02 Mar 2019

Any means to throw a spanner in the works of police trying to entrap people is fine by me.

We have regular DUI checkpoints in my area. They are all paid for by a state fund that is supposed to do things to deter drunk driving. However these checkpoints are never set up to catch DUI's and they don't. They are geared to catch unlicenced immigrants via racial profiling. And they do.


Posted by:

HB
02 Mar 2019

We used CB radios in the 70's to verbally warn each other of speed traps. It seems to me that the crowdsourcing of the info is the same thing only higher tech - wouldn't it be protected free speech under the Constitution?


Posted by:

RLW
04 Mar 2019

How many career criminals use these internet sites to evade law enforcement? As a professional law enforcement agent I have over 40 years of experience and in my earlier years I participated in numerous DWI / violation checkpoints. I have stopped and arrested some very evil criminals that otherwise would have been missed without that random stop, they usually do not violate traffic laws so as not to be stopped. I do understand the problem and do not agree with enhancing revenue by traffic violations, but having Google use this tool only helps the career criminal continue his trade.


Posted by:

dave
04 Mar 2019

they should attack the problem at the source! we got gps, speed limiters and other tech that could be utilized! instead of making weird obstacles or speed camera's etc. develop a box to limit speeding at location to be build into all vehicles no matter of age of the vehicle. then speeding is something of the past.


Posted by:

Tony
05 Mar 2019

I'm a full-time Wazer but there's been a recent change in law where I live. I now limit my activity so as not to get caught holding my phone while driving. Was actually shocked on a recent visit to America, to find my driver openly using his phone for Waze and Google Maps, apparently with no fear of prosecution.


There's more reader feedback... See all 38 comments for this article.

Post your Comments, Questions or Suggestions

*     *     (* = Required field)

    (Your email address will not be published)
(you may use HTML tags for style)

YES... spelling, punctuation, grammar and proper use of UPPER/lower case are important! Comments of a political nature are discouraged. Please limit your remarks to 3-4 paragraphs. If you want to see your comment posted, pay attention to these items.

All comments are reviewed, and may be edited or removed at the discretion of the moderator.

NOTE: Please, post comments on this article ONLY.
If you want to ask a question click here.

Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
RSS   Add to My Yahoo!   Feedburner Feed
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy


Article information: AskBobRankin -- [LEGAL?] Digital Snitching On Police (Posted: 11 Feb 2019)
Source: https://askbobrankin.com/legal_digital_snitching_on_police.html
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved