At a meeting at a National Sheriffs Association conference earlier this month, a group of sheriffs raised concerns that the app can be used for “stalking” police officers.
Waze, a social traffic app available for iOS, Android and Windows devices, allows users to report on traffic jams, accidents and other commute problems. Users can also report the location of police officers and radar-based speed traps, which are highlighted with a police-officer icon on a map.
During the meeting, officers pointed to the Instagram account of a man who shot and killed two NYPD police officials in December, according to The Associated Press. The man posted a screenshot from Waze to Instagram with a caption that threatened police.
However, investigators don’t believe that the app was used for the attack. The shooter ditched his phone a couple of miles from the murder scene. and there is no official record of an assailant using Waze to ambush police.
“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 Sheriff Mike Brown of Bedford, Va., who also serves as the chairman of the National Sheriffs Association technology committee, according to the AP.
A National Sheriffs Association spokesman told Mashable that the organization has no official stance on Waze; this was just a concern that some members of the organization raised at its winter conference, which was held in Washington, D.C., between Jan. 20 and 24. The meetings were coordinated with the Major County Sheriffs’ Association winter conference that runs Jan. 26 and 27 immediately after.
It’s unclear whether Waze has had a widespread effect on how police officers go about their jobs. There’s no data, for example, to say whether traffic legal incidents have gone down because of the Waze app, which has 50 million users globally.
A Waze spokeswoman told Mashable that safety is a priority — and that the app works with local police forces, who often support the police-tracking feature because drivers tend to follow the law more strictly when they believe police are nearby. Here’s what they had to say:
“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, sharing information on road incidents and closures 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.”
Google and Sheriff Mike Brown did not immediately respond to Mashable’s request for comment. Read more…