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U.S. senators ask Apple to pull police-evasion apps

  1. Terrapinzflyer
    A group of U.S. senators is calling on Apple to remove applications that alert users to the presence of police and other law enforcement checkpoints that have been set up to combat drunk driving.

    U.S. Senators Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) are named as senders in the letter, which is addressed to Apple's senior vice president of iPhone software, Scott Forstall. No specific applications are named, but the letter highlights apps that "contain a database of DUI [driving under the influence] checkpoints updated in real-time" as well as one that sends out real-time alerts about the existence of these checkpoints.

    "With more than 10,000 Americans dying in drunk-driving crashes every year, providing access to iPhone and iPad applications that alert users to DUI checkpoints is harmful to public safety," the group wrote. "We know that your company shares our desire to end the scourge of drunk driving and we therefore would ask you to remove these applications from your store."

    A quick search on the App Store shows several such apps, some with suggestive names such as Tipsy and Fuzz Alert Pro, some that cost money and some that are free. Alongside these more specialized applications are crowd-sourced, social-network-style apps that can alert users to general police presence on local roads and highways.

    Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Along with drunk driving apps, Apple is currently under fire for approving an iPhone application from a religious ministry that takes a stance on homosexuality, encouraging users to "cure" themselves of it. That particular app has been up on the store since mid-February, and continues to be made available.

    To combat any confusion or ambiguities on its rules and regulations for application approval, Apple released a set of App Store guidelines back in September that spells out what apps are and are not allowed to do.
    Included on that list of "don'ts" are "apps that encourage excessive consumption of alcohol or illegal substances, or encourage minors to consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes."

    Update at 9:10 a.m. on 3/23: The same letter was also sent to Google's Eric Schmidt, as well as Research in Motion for the Android Marketplace and The Blackberry App World respectively.

    Here's a full copy of the senators' letter:

    Mr. Scott Forstall
    Senior Vice President, iPhone Software
    Apple, Inc.
    1 Infinite Loop
    Cupertino, CA 95014

    Dear Mr. Forstall,
    We write today with grave concern regarding the ease with which downloadable applications for the iPhone, iPad, and other Apple products allow customers to identify where local police officers have set up DUI checkpoints. With more than 10,000 Americans dying in drunk-driving crashes every year, providing access to iPhone and iPad applications that alert users to DUI checkpoints is harmful to public safety.

    We know that your company shares our desire to end the scourge of drunk driving and we therefore would ask you to remove these applications from your store.

    One application, your company acknowledges in the product description, contains a database of DUI checkpoints updated in real-time. Another application, with more than 10 million users, also allows users to alert each other to DUI checkpoints in real time.

    Police officers from across the country have voiced concern about these products, with one police captain saying, "If people are going to use those, what other purpose are they going to use them for except to drink and drive?" With a person dying every 50 minutes in a drunk-driving crash, this technology should not be promoted to your customers--in fact, it shouldn't even be available.

    We appreciate the technology that has allowed millions of Americans to have information at their fingertips, but 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 will give our request to remove these applications from your store immediate consideration.

    Thank you for your prompt and careful consideration of this matter. Should you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact our offices.

    Sincerely,
    Senator Reid
    Senator Schumer
    Senator Lautenberg
    Senator Udall


    by Josh Lowensohn
    March 22, 2011

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-20045942-37.html

Comments

  1. TylerDurden
    FUCK Shumer and his self aggandizement cause dejour.,Drunk driving sucks, it is awful. Marijuana influenced driving is OnlY SLIGHTY) arguably less risky. Turn libertarian for sanity, and put the multibillion dollar cottage industry known as the drug war in to harm reduction and ever improving abstinence inducing drugs and more studied effective modes of treatment. Fucking hypocrite-hate that smug slime ball. Oh, for the record, the device should be covered by the 4th amendment, but really what is these days?
  2. Valseedian
    the difference is that they are appealing to the owner of a company to stop providing a service, not attempting to make it illegal..

    They know they'd never be able to pass a bill, I beleive (but am not certain) that applications like these are covered under the first amendment..
    they'll only get more an more sophistocated.. soon in-car computing systems will be able to communicate between eachother and will *eventually* just triangulate police by their radio's and LoJacks..

    and before long they'll have to do battle with blackberry's similar apps and anything developed for in-car computing systems.
  3. squeezix
    Are they complaining to the newspapers too? Because in my region they announce checkpoints. Oh, and fuck Lautenberg, he jumps in on every idiot complaint and bill that passes in front of him, like he just sits on his ass in his office 24/7 waiting for something to sign.
  4. runitsthepolice
    This makes no sense! It is the law the police must post in a local newspaper the location of DUI checkpoints. Why would Senators be so against the public being informed, if informing the public is the law?
  5. Spare Chaynge
    Interesting how the picture given in the example of the application is of Austin, Texas. Sobriety check points are illegal in Texas.
  6. Terrapinzflyer
    Personally- I see a couple of issues here...

    On the one hand- the senators may be acting as a representative of the people. On the other...as a representative of the government, with an unspoken threat hanging in the air.

    There is also an oft debated constitutional question behind random DUI checkpoints.

    The turtles aarrdvark tells me of a couple abuses he has witnessed.

    One was outside washington DC area after Grateful Dead shows where the cops had watched the drug trade during the day, and during show time- sprayed vehicles hubcaps with UV paint. There where then DUI checkpoints on the beltway after the show, with blacklights set up roadside. Glowing hubcaps meant you got pulled over and ripped apart. (and no- not urban legend- confirmed by a friends father who was a local judge)

    The other has been in CA, where he has witnessed whites being waved through, while the hispanics were stopped and messed with.
  7. Pondlife
    Don't expect Google to remove apps that help users avoid DUI checkpoints -- the company says it is leaving the controversial apps on its Android Marketplace.

    A source said the company only removes apps that violate its Android content policies and the apps in question no not appear to violate these policies.

    Four senators, Harry Reid (D-NV), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Tom Udall (D-NM), sent letters out to Apple, Google and Research in Motion asking them to remove apps that help people avoid DUI checkpoints, saying they are dangerous. RIM has agreed to pull the apps and Apple has yet to respond.

    On its Android app policy site, the only thing that the DUI checkpoint evasion app comes close to breaking is its "Illegal activities policy." Google says Android apps must "Keep it legal. Don't engage in unlawful activities on this product."

    The main source of concern is an app called PhantomAlert, which shows the locations of the DUI checkpoints, school zones, red light cameras and speed traps. It can also be uploaded to a user's GPS system and costs $9.99 per month. Other apps of this nature include Buzzed and Trapster.

    The senators say having these kinds of apps available is dangerous. One person dies every 50 minutes in a drunk-driving accident, and more than 10,000 Americans die in drunk-driving crashes each year.

    "We appreciate the technology that has allowed millions of Americans to have information at their fingertips, but 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 will give our request to make these applications unavailable immediate consideration," the senators said in their letters to Google, RIM and Apple.

    Apple has not responded to a request for comment.

    http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/126487/20110324/google-checkpoint-app-evasion-dui-evasion.htm
  8. Pondlife
    This is a problem for Apple because, by censoring the app store, they will become responsible for what it contains. Apple seem to have appointed themselves as the moral police of the app store. Google's approach with Android seems much more sensible - don't pull something unless it's actually illegal.
  9. EscapeDummy
    While swim agrees with the majority of the posters here, he does feel that one of the few things worse than a drunk driver, is a drunk driver driving while using their iPhone to navigate maps which show them the real time locations of DUI checkpoints! With the cell phone driving laws, you know that the drivers are going to keep their phones near their lap and take their eyes off the road.
  10. bcubed
    I'm just wondering when one will be able to buy a GPS device that uses Bluetooth to superimpose the checkpoints on the map...and give directions based on "least exposure to DUI checkpoints."

    (Actually, checkpoints are a PITA even if one is sober...I know I'd avoid the hassle and aggravation if I knew ahead of time.)
  11. Pondlife
    New App Store guidelines ban DUI checkpoint apps

    In late March, four US Senators banded together and wrote a letter to Apple asking that they remove apps that alert users as to the whereabouts of DUI checkpoints.

    “With more than 10,000 Americans dying in drunk-driving crashes every year,” the letter stated, “providing access to iPhone and iPad applications that alert users to DUI checkpoints is harmful to public safety. We know that your company shares our desire to end the scourge of drunk driving and we therefore would ask you to remove these applications from your store.”

    While some of these apps make use of information housed in publicly accessible databases, many of them rely on crowdsourcing. Indeed, one app singled out by the letter is alleged to have had approximately 10 million users actively alerting “each other to DUI checkpoints in real time.”

    In a separate letter sent concurrently by US Sentator Charles Schumer, Schumer also called out apps like Trapster and PhantomAlert which work to alert users as to the whereabouts of police speed traps and red light cameras.

    Well, Apple took those letters to heart, partially.

    In revised app store guidelines discovered by Mac Rumors, Apple has updated Section 22.8 to now read:

    Apps which contain DUI checkpoints that are not published by law enforcement agencies, or encourage and enable drunk driving, will be rejected.

    So one out of two ain’t bad, and in all honesty, Apple made the right decision here.

    DUI checkpoint apps do nothing more than tell potentially intoxicated drivers where not to go. They’re still driving drunk, just on the down low. Apps like Trapster, however, might effectively work to cut down on speeding when a police speed trap is noted. Though to be fair, it might encourage speeders to pick their spots more strategically.

    Either way, drunk driving is a lot more serious and contentious than speeders which is probably why Apple chose to only address DUI checkpoint apps.

    We should note, however, that DUI checkpoint apps already on the iTunes App Store haven’t been kicked out and we’ll have to wait and see if they’re grandfathered in or if they’ll eventually be removed. Take DUI Dodger, for example, which enables users to view and submit checkpoints in their area.

    http://www.edibleapple.com/new-app-store-guidelines-ban-dui-checkpoint-apps/
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