On the streets of Los Angeles, where everyone is looking for a route that skirts traffic, Waze is our jam. The Google-owned mobile-phone app draws on everyone in its network of users to determine what roads are moving at what pace, information that allows it to offer optimized, often unexpected directions when crossing town at rush hour. Its map is also populated with information from its most avid users, like the location of a stalled car, road work, or a police cruiser.
Thus the present controversy.
After the recent murder of two NYPD officers as they sat in their car, cops around the country are understandably wary of more premeditated killings. Less understandably, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has written a letter to Google asserting that Waze–an app the cop killer had but didn't use to locate his victims–could be "misused by those with criminal intent to endanger police officers."
He isn't alone.
Sheriff Mike Brown of Bedford County, Virginia, who leads a technology committee for the National Sheriffs Association, says that Waze is a "police stalker" that endangers cops. "The police community needs to coordinate an effort to have the owner, Google, act like the responsible corporate citizen they have always been," he said, "and remove this feature from the application even before any litigation or statutory action." And Jim Pasco, who leads the Fraternal Order of Police, claimed that he can think of 100 ways it could endanger officer safety. "There's no control over who uses it," he said. "So, if you're a criminal and you want to rob a bank, hypothetically, you use your Waze."