The potential misuse of social media has now extended to navigation apps.
We’ve all known that terrorist groups use Facebook and Twitter to communicate surreptitiously, but now we have Google’s Waze navigation app to worry about too.
The National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) sent a letter to Google stressing its concern over a crowdsourcing feature that lets users report the location of officers looking for speeders. The app could be abused by cop haters to find and murder officers.
On top of that, the association said, “the ability for individual or organized crime to track law enforcement puts every community they protect at risk. If the bad guy knows where law enforcement is all the time, it makes it much easier for them to carry out their illegal activities.”
That’s an unintended consequence of Waze, but the association isn’t that fond of the crowdsourcing feature’s intended function either. “The use of radar and other speed-reducing activities [has] helped make a substantial reduction in [highway deaths],” the association said. “This app will hamper those activities by locating law enforcement officers and puts the public at risk.”
The NSA asked to meet with Google to get it to disable the feature.
Said Sheriff Michael J. Brown of Bedford County, “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.”
Alerting other people to the presence of law enforcement isn’t new. It was quite common in the 1970s when people slapped CB (Citizens Band) radios under the dash and warned other motorists that smoky lurked in the bushes. Today we flash our headlights to warn oncoming motorists that a radar-wielding police car is nearby.
Now, however, the ubiquity of smartphones is a game-changer, as is the popularity of Waze. Maybe it’s time to give the crowdsourcing feature a second thought.