Is Waze helping people avoid traffic tickets, or putting police in a dangerous and potentially lethal position? A group of U.S. sheriffs in multiple states insist it’s the latter, and is now pressuring Waze’s owner, Google, to turn the feature off.
Waze is a free app that offers real-time traffic information from user-submitted reports, so that drivers can avoid bad traffic. But a newer feature also identifies the locations of police on a map. The sheriffs claim that this function could transform Waze into stalking app for someone looking to hunt police officers. This hasn’t happened yet, but the sheriffs argue that it’s only a matter of time before it does.
The issue places Google into yet another debate about the value of easily accessible information versus public safety and privacy. Waze can’t actually track police officers; it relies upon user-submitted reports of where police are. And Waze cannot actually tell users what a police officer is doing: It only shows police on a map using an icon, regardless of whether they’re setting a speed trap or just grabbing lunch.
In response, Waze has said that it cares very much about both safety and security. In a statement made to the Associated Press, spokeswoman Julie Mossler said the company works closely with the New York Police Department by sharing information that helps “keep citizens safe, promote faster emergency response and help alleviate traffic congestion.”