The PJ Tatler

The War Against Waze Continues: Cops Report Fake Locations to Trick Users

The fight over google’s app “Waze” continues onward.

I previously wrote about Waze, a traffic-based social networking application that allows users to report information subsequently shared with other users. Some of the things users share with each other are the locations of potholes along certain routes, cars that are broken down on the shoulder of freeways, and, of course, where police are hiding hoping to issue some traffic violations.

Law enforcement has a problem with sharing the location of police officers. They claim people who want to murder cops can use Waze to find where the police are located. I call foul on this:  no law enforcement officer has ever been murdered because of Waze; rather; it’s obvious law enforcement doesn’t want to lose the revenue stream from dishing out traffic violations. If drivers know where the police have set up speed traps, drivers will slow down and avoid getting a ticket.

Google has refused, so far, to remove the feature that allows users to report the location of police.

Police in Miami have taken matters into their own hands. According to Autoblogs, “Hundreds of officers in the Miami area have downloaded the app, which lets users provide real-time traffic information and identify areas where police are conducting speed enforcement. The local NBC affiliate says the officers are flooding Waze with false information on their activity in an attempt to make the app’s information less useful to drivers.”

Sgt. Javier Ortiz, president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, tells NBC Miami that disclosing the location of police officers “puts us at risk, puts the public at risk, because it’s going to cause more deadly encounters between law enforcement and suspects.”  How many more deadly encounters will happen is unclear.  One thing it will do, however, is slow drivers down. “Most users tend to drive more carefully when they believe law enforcement is nearby,” spokesperson Julie Mossler told the Associated Press.

It sounds like the police care more about their fundraising than they care about the First Amendment. Citizens have the right to speak freely and share information. “Waze represents person-to person information in the public square,” said Nuala O’Connor, head of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington civil liberties group. “And that’s long been a U.S. right under the Constitution.”

Shame on the police for pulling this stunt.