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US Senators to Apple, Google RIM and Other Pull DUI Checkpoint-Dodging Apps

If you resort to smartphone apps that share information about police D.U.I. checkpoints and speed traps may be a boon for drivers hoping to avoid tickets (or worse), but a group of U.S. senators says they’re nothing but a “public safety hazard.”

The four United States Democrat senators from New York, New Jersey, Nevada and New Mexico have sent a letter to Apple, RIM, and Google, requesting that the app be taken down ASAP.

“We know that your companies share our desire to end the scourge of drunk driving and we therefore would ask you to remove these applications from your store unless they are altered to remove the DUI/DWI checkpoint functionality.”

“Giving drunk drivers a free tool to evade checkpoints, putting innocent families and children at risk, is a matter of public concern. We hope that you’ll give our request to remove these applications from your store immediate consideration,” the letter says.

DUI Checkpoint - Image credit: Pennsylvania DUI blog

The senators appear to be targeting tools that take user-generated info on the location of red light cameras, speed traps, school zones, and DUI checkpoints and overlay that info on the map in order to warn motorists. There’re many tools available that provide this type of functionality, although it appears that the group is specifically targeting PhantomALERT.

In the Apple App Store, apps like PhantomAlert, Trapster, iRadar and others claim to help drivers avoid speed traps, police checkpoints and other traffic stops by crowdsourcing the reports of other drivers and disseminating police warnings.

Apple controls what can and can’t be installed on their devices via their App Store, so removing access to an application is relatively straight forward: send a letter to the head of Apple’s iPhone software store and see if the company pulls the app for you.

The other providers have a segmented market, making it nearly impossible to stop the proliferation of tools. While some see Apple’s iron grip on the applications as a good thing for the community, cases like this can cause people to rethink the control.

But Joe Scott, CEO and founder of PhantomAlert, a Harrisburg, Pa., company that makes a popular checkpoint alert app for all kinds of smartphones, said he thought the senators’ letter was a “knee-jerk reaction.”

“If they really understood what we are doing and aim to achieve, they would actually support us,” he said.


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