Police are upset that they’re constantly being tracked and surveilled and they want something done about it. Sergio Kopelev, a reserve sheriff in Orange County, California, has recently been on a mission to raise awareness that the traffic and maps app Waze allows users to tag the location of police officers. Kopelev believes that it’s dangerous for officers and wants the apps owner, Google, to remove the feature.
Waze is designed to inform drivers of potential traffic problems, closed roads and it even has a feature for notifying other users of the location of police who might be setting up a speed trap. Kopelev believes that these are dangerous times for police and he’s tried to draw a link between the December assassination of NYPD police officers and the app because the shooter posted a screenshot from Waze on his Instagram prior to the attack.
According to NPR:
Kopelev reached out to Waze directly. He made posts about the feature on Facebook. And he eventually gave a talk about the app and its police tracker to the National Sheriffs Association’s annual convention. His talk there led to even more outcry from officials and a good amount of media coverage, but even before that conference, police around the country had been speaking out about it.
In late December, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck sent an open letter to Google CEO Larry Page, saying that the app endangers officers’ lives. “I am concerned about the safety of law enforcement officers and the community, and the potential for your Waze product to be misused by those with criminal intent to endanger police officers and the community,” Beck wrote.
But supporters of the feature say that it’s hypocritical of police to be so concerned with privacy when they increasingly insist on taking it away from everyday citizens. Dave Maass, an investigative researcher with the Electronic Frontier Foundation tells NPR:
“Police for years have been arguing that what you do in the public space isn’t private,” Maass says. “They’ve said they can have facial recognition, they can have automatic license plate readers, and that people have no expectation of privacy. But when the tables are turned, then that’s dangerous?”
Maass goes on to say that the request to change the app is an untenable precedent to set. After all, what if people point out the location of an officer on Twitter? Would all online services need to police their users’ posts about police? Furthermore, CB radios, police scanners and radar detectors have existed for decades and Waze is just a logical extension of those cop tracking tools.
For its part Waze won’t say what the future plans are for the police location feature. Waze also says that many police like it because people drive more carefully when they know there’s a cop presence in the area. For now the National Sheriff’s Association plans to hold seminars to keep officers aware of the app and its potential uses.
(Phot0: Waze Promo)