Software Developer Group Rebuts Senators Claims Over DUI Checkpoint Apps

If you recall, last week we reported on a request from four US Senators that Apple remove apps that warn and alert users of where DUI (driving under the influence) checkpoints are. Well the Association for Competitive Technology, a group of thousands of independent software developers has responded to this request by the Senators and objected to the reasoning of the claims.
Rebutting the contention that the apps are “harmful to public safety”, the group’s president, Jonathan Zuck, said that the concerns raised are actually “in conflict with the public interest on the issue of traffic safety.” Citing the National Highway Safety Administration, he goes on to say that heightened awareness of DUI checkpoints acts as a deterrent to illegal behaviour and that “several of the apps in question have received particular commendation from the law enforcement community.”
Furthermore some of the apps in question, including PhantomALERT (which is part of the A.C.T. group) and Trapster use data from the public domain – some of which is required by law to be published, this data will continue to live on regardless of whether some smartphone apps are pulled. Meanwhile, RIM last week removed PhantomALERT from it’s app store and was applauded by the Senators who issued a statement saying “Drunk drivers will soon have one less tool to evade law enforcement and endanger our friends and families. We appreciate RIM’s immediate reply and urge the other smartphone makers to quickly follow suit.” Jump the break for the A.C.T. group’s full response to the Senator’s request.
[Via Cult of Mac]
Today, Senators Reid, Schumer, Lautenberg and Udall released a letter they sent to mobile applications stores asking them to block distribution of traffic software apps like Trapster and PhantomALERT because user-generated input can warn drivers about drunk driving checkpoints.
While I applaud the Senators for seeking to curb drunk driving, their criticism of online traffic apps misses the point.  These programs feature information about speed and red light cameras by mapping publicly available information provided by law enforcement agencies.  There is also a social networking element of the apps which allows users to submit traffic information so drivers can avoid traffic jams.  This makes these programs very popular attracting tens of millions of users. Law enforcement authorities have embraced these services expressing their strong approval for products that reduce speeding and improve traffic safety.
These traffic apps rely on user-submitted and law enforcement provided information.  Any one of the programs’ users can submit a warning about a traffic obstruction as simply as emailing a friend or posting a message on their Facebook profile. The suggestion that the government should compel Apple, RIM, or other mobile application stores to block programs that simply allow users to report information based on location is misguided at best. Taken to its conclusion, that would require blocking apps like Foursquare and Loopt.  Having the government act as arbiter of which products should be sold in stores is a slippery slope that few would welcome.

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