A police tracking feature in a popular navigation app has sheriffs across the U.S. concerned for the safety of officers, a growing number of whom want Google to turn off the feature completely.
Google’s Waze app provides both GPS navigation and crowdsourcing information to give users real-time traffic updates about congestion, accidents, weather and police presence — including traffic cameras, speed traps, sobriety checks and hidden highway patrolmen.
The latter is the feature that concerns police, many of whom describe Waze as a “stalking” app that puts officers in danger by revealing their locations to potential cop killers.
Southern California reserve Deputy Sheriff Sergio Kopelev and Bedford County, Virginia Sheriff Mike Brown told the Associated Press that its only a matter of time before the “police stalker” is used to target law enforcement.
“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,” Brown, who is also chairman of the National Sheriffs Association technology committee, said in a Monday report.
A spokesperson for Waze, which was purchased by Google in 2013, said the company works with departments including the NYPD to share information to promote the safety of both the public and police, and Center for Democracy and Technology head Nuala O’Connor said disabling the police feature would be inappropriate.
“I do not think it is legitimate to ask a person-to-person communication to cease simply because it reports on publicly visible law enforcement,” O’Connor said in the report.
Kopelev and Brown reportedly discussed the app during the National Sheriffs Association winter conference in Washington last week.