Google announced today that its Waze app has graduated to the big leagues and has officially joined Google Mobile Services along with other “essential” apps like Gmail, YouTube, Chrome, and Google Maps. This move will give OEMs the option to preinstall Waze on their smartphones and tablets so users can enjoy the benefits of the app “straight out of the box.”
"If a leading telecom preinstalls Waze in his handsets, a large percentage of the population would immediately have access to blocked roads, dangerous intersections traffic and more in real time," said Waze spokesperson Julie Mossler. "There's an enormous opportunity to improve city efficiency and civilian connectedness just by enhanced exposure and we look forward to growing this community."
What makes this revelation interesting is the fact that some police officers have expressed their concern that Waze actually makes them rolling targets for criminals. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck criticized the app in late January, commenting that it could be “misused by those with criminal intent to endanger police officers and the community."
Beck then tried to play “Good Cop” with Google, adding, ”I am confident your company did not intend the Waze app to be a means to allow those who wish to commit crimes to use the unwitting Waze community as their lookouts for the location of police officers.”
Sgt. Javier Ortiz, president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, made similar comments last month, telling NBC 6 that Waze “puts us at risk, puts the public at risk, because it’s going to cause more deadly force encounters between law enforcement and suspects.”
Police departments are concerned because regular citizens can pinpoint the location of a police officer on a “living map” within the Waze app. This functionality is mainly used to alert drivers of looming speed traps or police officers that have already pulled someone over on the side of the road. Some police departments feel that it paints a deadly target on officers, even though officers “marked” by Waze users drive around in highly visible government vehicles. Despite this fact, police departments feel that the easy access of Waze leaves its officers open to ambush attacks by criminals.
Officers in the Miami area recently decided to band together to feed false data into Waze in an effort to hide police locations and befuddle drivers. Despite these obfuscation efforts, it looks as though police departments will have even more users alerting other drivers to their revenue generating speed traps thanks to Google’s latest move.