Fearing Safety, Police Ask Google to Turn Off Officer-Tracking Feature in Waze App

Amid roiling tensions with police, officers are urging Google-owned Waze to disable a crowdsourced feature that details their whereabouts.

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By Geoff Weiss • Jan 27, 2015


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Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck is urging Waze, a crowdsourced traffic app owned by Google, to disable a tracking feature that alerts drivers when officers are nearby for fear that it could be used by would-be cop killers.

Before murdering two New York police officers last month, for instance, in what he claimed was retribution for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, Ismaaiyl Brinsley posted a screenshot from Waze showing the whereabouts of nearby police officers on his Instagram account.

"I am concerned about...the potential for your Waze product to be misused by those with criminal intent," Beck wrote in a December letter to Larry Page, CEO of Google, which purchased Waze for $966 million in 2013.

While Beck said that he knew Waze hadn't been created with criminal intent, he told Page, "I look forward to opening a dialogue with you as to how Google can prevent the future misuse of the Waze app to track law enforcement officers, thereby avoiding any future deaths or injury."

Related: The Crazy, Cool and Unsettling Ways Police Are Using Social Media

The issue was also broached at the National Sheriffs' Association winter conference last week in Washington, D.C., where attendees referred to the app as a "police stalker."

For its part, Waze spokesperson Julie Mossler responded that, generally speaking, "Police partners support Waze and its features, including reports of police presence, because most users tend to drive more carefully when they believe law enforcement is nearby."

Mossler added that, while Waze provides a rough location where officers have been spotted, it does not give exact locations or enable tracking.

Waze, which was founded in Israel in 2008, allows users to passively and actively contribute traffic data, road reports on accidents, police traps and other potential driving hiccups in order to ensure an optimal route.

Related: Google to Buy Social Mapping Startup Waze

Geoff Weiss

Former Staff Writer

Geoff Weiss is a former staff writer at Entrepreneur.com.

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