U.S. Senate Democrats ask Apple to pull police-evasion apps

“U.S. senators wrote a letter this week to Apple, Google and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion seeking the removal of programs that they said provide the locations of DUI checkpoints — and RIM, at least, is quickly complying,” Jennifer Valentino-DeVries blogs for The Wall Street Journal.

“On Tuesday, Democratic senators Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Frank Lautenberg and Tom Udall sent the letter to the smartphone makers, calling the DUI apps ‘harmful to public safety.’ ‘Giving drunk drivers a free tool to evade checkpoints, putting innocent families and children at risk, is a matter of public concern,’ they wrote,” Valentino-DeVries reports. “The apps in question have names like ‘FuzzAlert’ and ‘Buzzed’ and either maintain a list of DUI checkpoints or ask users to report them when they see them. Some of the apps also maintain information on speed traps and red-light cameras, but those features haven’t drawn the same level of ire.”

Valentino-DeVries reports, “The maker of “FuzzAlert,” Steve Croke, says he didn’t design the app to help people evade DUIs but to let people know where things like red-light cameras and speed traps are. He added information on DUI checkpoints because other apps had it and it publicizes the existence of such checks, he said. ‘I don’t think anybody realistically is going to go into a bar and get smashed and then check my app,’ he said. ‘Is government really allowed to come in and say ‘You can’t do this?’'”

“By Wednesday, the senators reported that RIM had said it would comply with the request and remove the apps, likely within the day,” Valentino-DeVries reports. “‘We appreciate RIM’s immediate reply and urge the other smartphone makers to quickly follow suit,’ the lawmakers said in a press release.”

Full article here.

In an editorial today, The Washington Times writes, “It wasn’t so long ago that ‘Papers, please’ checkpoints could only be found in Eastern European countries under the thumb of the Soviet Union. They were tools of oppression designed to keep the populace in check. In 1990, the Supreme Court decided that such techniques could be used in the United States because of the ‘carnage’ caused by drunk driving – the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures notwithstanding. The advent of smartphones has enabled drivers to note the locations of these stops and dispatch a warning notice to anyone who may be in the vicinity. It’s the digital equivalent of flashing one’s headlights to warn of an upcoming speed trap – a form of free speech as old as the automobile itself.”

“There’s good reason to question the constitutionality and effectiveness of checkpoints,” The Washington Times writes. “Michigan’s highest court outlawed roadblocks under the state constitution. Most other jurisdictions, however, have jumped on the bandwagon because checkpoints bring in big cash. As a typical example, police in Costa Mesa, Calif., gladly accepted federal grants to set up a roadblock on Jan. 7. A total of 1,005 vehicles passed through with two DUI arrests made, which equals a 99.8 percent sobriety rate. The officers confiscated five vehicles and issued 53 tickets for various infractions wholly unrelated to the DUI ‘carnage’ used to justify the stops in the first place.”

The Washington Times writes, “Real drunk drivers deserve severe punishment, but the best way to catch them is to respect the Fourth Amendment. Instead of having cops stand around behind barricades interrogating soccer moms, have them patrol the streets looking for evidence of impaired driving. It works. In the meantime, high-tech companies ought to email these senators a free Constitution app for their smart phones.”

Read more in the full article here.

78 Comments

      1. Strange, in Belgium they announce the location of the police speed traps on the radio. With great success. Many people who got informed this way really observe the speed limits.
        But the finesse of the system lies in the fact that they don’t announce the location of ALL speed traps. So it not only draws the people’s attention to the fact that they might get caught, but incites them to not exceed the speed limit elsewhere.

        What about suggesting that the app only produce, say, 80% of the information. That might have a greater overall benefit than just censoring the entire application.

    1. I hate, absolutely hate, democrats and unions. You idiots are going to get voted out in 2012. You don’t seem to realize if you get your way the free market workers will just stop then no one will have a penny and the US will be like every other hell hole out there in this world.

      1. Exactly what part of your rant has anything to do with Apple, Macs, iPhone, etc?
        BTW- Quite a number of your teabagger/Republican-in-drag Governors/State Legislators will be recalled because of their obnoxious overreach. Some will get a year due to laws requiring they screw things up for a year first.

        1. No the liberals are the one that go on the gun shooting, hate filled rampages. Making all kinds of hateful comments about conservatives. Tea Baggers? Give me a break. You losers just want to steal the hard working portion of societies private property. You have no clue how good you have it. Why the hell would you want to destroy the US you sick f*ck.

  1. My four little monkeys are just trying to protect a gov’t revenue stream as always.

    RIM idiots already folded (I told them I was gonna switch to an iPhone if they didn’t). Apple and Google will fold in 3… 2…

    Hold on now, I gotta go bomb the shit out of some more innocent Libyan women and children without congressional authorization. Even He Who I blame For Everything had congressional authorization for the Afganistan and Iraq actions!

    Oh, yeah, don’t forget my hypocrite supporters, Gitmo’s still open for business, suckers!

    1. keep sucking that Koch, dunce. “Innocent Libyan women and children”???? What planet are you on? Quit trolling around here and go cut some public workers’ health benefits, kill some infrastructure investments and gut some more environmental laws so you can save some billionaire another pile in taxes…

    2. keep sucking that Koch, dunce. “Innocent Libyan women and children”???? What planet are you from? Quit trolling your irrelevancies on unrelated topics, and get back to cutting state workers’ health benefits, canceling badly needed infrastructure investments, and gutting more environmental laws so you can save some criminally selfish billionaire another pile in taxes.

        1. Not a Commie, Baked, but a proud, proud American Socialist. As in, I believe in public investment in and ownership of critical economic infrastructure (e.g. roads, bridges), and government action to safeguard public health and safety. Because, see, billionaires and selfish motives either don’t provide such public goods at all, or actually do so much *less* efficiently. And those quality public goods largely make up the difference between developed countries, and places like Sudan…

    3. And now we know why the USA REALLY imploded: they reached they quota for DIsturbingly Stupid People.

      Next you are going to tell me that Kadhafi is a nice dude that did nothing wrong and treats his servants, I mean, citizens well…

          1. Actually, I retract my stupid comment. I read Willy’s post and, seeing childish speech, felt like mocking him. However, I now see that it was lukeskymac that was being a jerk. Willy, I apologize. He does suck, lol.

  2. Checking apps while driving doesn’t seem like the best idea, anyway. If they’re asking for people not to report the location of any police presence by any means, that doesn’t seem quite fair. The police are allowed to know where we are. Next they’ll be saying we can’t take videos of the police on duty.

    1. good point.

      Kinda on the fence on this. on one hand, an app helping you break the law.. other hand, congress telling a company how to do its business..

      and what quiviran said above… have to agree.

        1. driving drunk is against the law.
          speeding is against the law.
          running a red light is against the law.
          app is intended to help drunks, speeders etc avoid checkpoints and show them where they could get caught speeding.
          thus, telling them where they can safely break the law. and where they cant.

          1. According to your logic, we should also outlaw radar detectors?

            I am adamantly against drunk driving, speeding, and running red lights. My oldest sister was murdered by a drunk driver who doesn’t even remember doing it, and I have had several close calls with reckless drivers and red light runners. But I am not comfortable with the Congressional pressure being applied to censor this app. If anyone should be involved in a matter like this, it is the Supreme Court. This is not a legislative or budget issue.

            If people want to share this information, then they should be able to do so. We are heading down a very slippery slope in a big hurry if we support censorship of this type.

    2. No they are not and they can drive as well.

      Most likely a really drunk person cannot use an app but, it turns out there’s no need to use the app to alert the really drunk about DUIs because you set it up when you are sober (provided you don’t have a rock as brain).

      1. Rising gas prices are the best thing that could happen to this country, no matter who the President is. Gas is going the way of whale oil and the faster we are forced to look for alternatives, the better.

        1. You are completely out of your f*cking mind Frito. Screw you and your gas is going the way of whale oil. What the hell is going to replace it Windmills? You are such a little comrade. Do what you’re told, don’t ask questions, global warming cough, save the planet, capitalism is evil, white people are evil, destroy the US, etc, etc, etc. You Marxists are NUTZ!!!!

  3. “Some of the apps also maintain information on speed traps and red-light cameras, but those features haven’t drawn the same level of ire”

    Speed traps, if you live in the area.. you kinda know where they frequent. Same with red lights.
    the speed traps dont bother me, DUI stops either really,but the red light cameras…. I avoid them as much as i can. Such BS.

    BUT… the DUI stops, should only be a breath test. you pass, you’re on your way.
    search my vehicle? get a warrant. there is a reason they are called a DUI stop, not Check to see if there are any infractions stops. the later is where they run into the 4th amendment problems.

  4. Regardless of the Constitution, this is a really dumb request. iPhones are connected to the Internet at all times, and they have the mobile Safari browser. These are just apps that displays web-based information. If the native app is removed from the App Store, someone will create a web-based app (a web page formatted for mobile Safari) that provides the same information, like the current mobile version of MDN. I’ll bet there already is one.

    The best way to reduce drunk driving is to actively look for violators, not passively check every single person who drives by a stationary “checkpoint.”

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