My first experience of a Californian police officer involved some wheelspin, some blue lights and sirens wailing and subsequently he pointed his sidearm in my direction whilst inviting me to get onto the ground. I was used to getting out of the car as you do in the United Kingdom. Luckily, he recognized that I had a funny accent and indeed found the section in my passport where the Queen demanding people bow to her subjects quite amusing. And now, US police forces are getting hot under the collar because of Waze, an interesting blend of a navigation system and a social network. You see, Waze allows drivers to report that there’s a local police presence, something that the US police forces do not agree with.
Waze was bought by Google for a little under $1 billion in 2013. It has fifty million users across two hundred countries and produces real time traffic guidance and warnings about nearby congestion, car accidents, speed traps, roadworks (construction zones) or unsafe weather conditions. However, in California, sheriffs are pressurizing Google to disable this feature as it could put lives in danger, citing how in December a man shot at two New York Police Department officers having posted a screenshot from Waze showing a threatening image right before the ambush. It’s not believed that the man used Waze to assist with the ambush but police forces are concerned that this is only a matter of time. A spokeswoman from Waze highlighted that the company works with the NYPD, plus others around the world, and that Waze was designed to keep citizens safe and promote a faster emergency response.
Waze users mark police presence on maps without much distinction other than “visible” or “hidden.” Users simply see a police icon, but it’s difficult to tell if this is a speed trap or donut break. And as a means of sharing information between individuals, Waze is simply an easier way to share compared with other social networks; it would be difficult to distinguish this information compared to Facebook, Google+ or Twitter. Do you use Waze? Have you see any police cars reported on the map? Have you used this information, or felt that it could be useful? Let us know in the comments below and meanwhile we’ll keep you in the loop with any developments.