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Police fear Waze satnav could be used by cop killers

Police chief calls for Google's satnav app to stop revealing the location of his officers

US police forces are calling for Google’s Waze satnav to stop reporting the location of their officers, through fears that it could be used to hunt them down. Waze is a community powered satnav that allows users to reports various incidents, such as traffic jams, accidents and the location of police officers. 

In the case of the latter, it’s designed to give fellow motorists warning of police speed traps, but US authorities believe the app could be used by those wishing to do harm to their officers. The Los Angeles Police chief, Charlie Beck, sent a letter to Google CEO, Larry Page, at the end of December, complaining that Waze could be “misused by those with criminal intent to endanger police officers and the community”, according to an Associated Press report. 

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The police chief’s complaint will raise questions over freedom of information. There’s no suggestion that the reporting of the location of police officers is illegal (either in the US or the UK), and there’s no reported evidence that Waze has been used to target officers. Although Waze could theoretically be used to locate isolated officers, it’s hard to believe that those intending to carry out attacks on the police would have too much trouble locating officers, with or without the satnav app. 

A spokesperson for Waze said the company “thinks deeply about safety and security”, according to the AP report, while Google itself declined to comment on the issue. 

Waze was bought by Google in 2013, and some of its community reporting features are now starting to appear in Google Maps, including accident and traffic blackspot reports, although not the location of police officers. Google has a long history of buying tech startups and subsuming their features into its own products, giving rise to doubts over Waze’s future as a standalone application.


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