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Senator Asks Smartphone Companies To Remove Apps That Warn Of OUI Checkpoints

On May 10, 2011, United States Senator Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, pressed Google, Inc. and Apple, Inc. to remove smartphone applications that warn users of DUI checkpoints. Using GPS capabilities, these applications also alert users to red light cameras and speed traps.

Schumer questioned the companies’ executives at the inaugural hearing of the Privacy and Technology Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary as to whether the apps facilitate illegal activity, thereby violating terms of service. The apps “endanger public safety by allowing drunk drivers to avoid police checkpoints,” Schumer said, according to PCWorld blog. “Apple and Google shouldn’t be in the business of selling apps that help drunk drivers evade the police, and they shouldn’t be selling apps that they themselves admit are ‘terrible,'” he said, according to a press release from schumer.senate.gov. Schumer used “Buzzed” and “Fuzz Alert” as examples of apps that should be removed from application stores. Executives from the companies will report to Congress within a month as to whether the apps violate the terms of service.

Research In Motion (RIM), Blackberry’s application maker, has removed the apps in response to a March letter from Schumer and Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Tom Udall (D-NM).

“If people are going to use those (apps), what other purpose are they going to use them for except to drink and drive?” one police officer said, according to a press release from schumer.senate.gov. In fact, however, these apps offer various services that may prevent drunk driving. For example, “Buzzed” offers a feature that allows users to call cabs based on users’ GPS locations. Another such app, Trapster, provides drunk driving “Frequently Asked Questions” that warn users against driving under the influence.

The wisdom of the policy behind this movement is questionable at best. Many, including many of those in law enforcement, believe that awareness of police presence deters drunk driving. Without that awareness, some may actually be more inclined to drink and drive. In line with this reasoning, many police departments across the country announce the locations of DUI checkpoints or announce checkpoint plans without disclosing the location. Additionally, it is doubtful that removing these apps will prevent information regarding DUI checkpoints from getting out to the public, given the fact that concerned persons can always check the Internet.


If you would like to speak with an experienced Massachusetts drunk driving/OUI/DUI lawyer, call the Law Offices of Stephen Neyman, P.C. at (617) 263-6800.