Sheriffs are pressuring Google Inc. to turn off a feature on its Waze traffic software that warns drivers when police are nearby, reports the Associated Press. They say the popular mobile app could put officers' lives in danger from would-be police killers who can find where their targets are parked. Waze, which Google acquired for $966 million in 2013, is a combination of GPS navigation and social networking. Fifty million users in 200 countries use the free service for real-time traffic guidance and warnings about nearby congestion, car accidents, speed traps or traffic cameras, construction zones, potholes, stalled vehicles or unsafe weather conditions.
Some police fear Waze is a stalking app for law enforcement. There are no known connections between any attack on police and Waze, but law enforcers are concerned it's only a matter of time. The emerging policy debate places Google again at the center of an ongoing global debate about public safety, consumer rights and privacy. Waze users mark police presence on maps without much distinction other than “visible” or “hidden.” Users see a police icon, but it's not immediately clear whether police are there for a speed trap, a sobriety check or a lunch break. The police generally are operating in public spaces.