NYPD to Google: Quit tracking drunk-driving checkpoints on Waze
The NYPD has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Google over Waze's police tracking features.
The NYPD has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Google over Waze's police tracking features.
Image: Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images

The New York Police Department would like Google to stop tracking its Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) checkpoint locations.

Over the weekend, the NYPD sent a cease-and-desist letter to Google over a feature in its Waze app that marks police locations. According to the document obtained by NYC Streetsblogs, the NYPD is specifically concerned about the listing of police DWI checkpoints.

“Individuals who post the locations of DWI checkpoints may be engaging in criminal conduct since such actions could be intentional attempts to prevent and/or impair the administration of the DWI laws,” says the letter. “The posting of such information for public consumption is irresponsible since it only serves to aid impaired and intoxicated drivers to evade checkpoints and encourage reckless driving.”

According to the letter, the NYPD claims it “will pursue all legal remedies to prevent the continued posting of this irresponsible and dangerous information.”

Waze, a mapping application that relies on detailed crowdsourced driving conditions, was acquired by Google for around $1 billion in 2013. The app has long tracked this kind of information. Users are able to report on the location of police officers as well as speed traps and cameras. 

"Safety is a top priority when developing navigation features at Google,” said a Google spokesperson in a statement provided to Mashable. “We believe that informing drivers about upcoming speed traps allows them to be more careful and make safer decisions when they're on the road."

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) national president Helen Witty echoed Google’s beliefs in a statement to the New York Times

“If you are impaired, you are not going to pay attention to that information,” said Witty who highlighted that publicizing these checkpoints aids in educating people about the consequences of drunk driving. “The goal is to make everyone aware that if you drink, don’t drive, and if you drive, don’t drink.”

This isn’t the first time these Waze features have drawn the ire of police officials. At a National Sheriffs Association meeting in 2015, attendees raised concerns over Waze’s ability to “stalk” officers. While the organization had no official position on the app, the chairman of its technology committee at the time said Google should remove the features as a “responsible corporate citizen.”

The newfound interest in Waze’s police tracking is likely due to an earlier earlier report concerning some of these features coming to Google Maps. The search giant start rolling out speed trap and speed limit notification features in Google Maps, the most popular navigation app, earlier this month. Mashable broke that these features would be soon coming to all of the apps users in the U.S. and nearly a dozen other countries.

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