Google's Waze Real-Time Reporting App Criticized For Tracking Police

Real-time traffic reporting has made Google-owned Waze popular with drivers, but law enforcement questions the importance of being able to track police officials. It not only puts their lives in jeopardy, but could derail any undercover operations in the works. Real-time reporting may be important when tracking traffic to determine congested areas or for consumers who opt-in to ad targeting for specials and coupons, but it's not always a positive feature when it comes to tracking the whereabouts of police.

L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck expressed the sentiment in a letter to Google. The concerns address the ability to report the whereabouts of law enforcement. In the letter, he asked to speak with company officials to ensure the app is not misused to target officers.

Beck told the L.A. Times: "It is not always in the public’s best interest to know where police are operating."

As reports of concerns increase, Waze defends the feature, saying that many in law enforcement support it because "most users tend to drive more carefully when they believe law enforcement is nearby." Some don't think Waze officials consider the consequences for law enforcement.

Julie Mossler, head of global communications for Waze, said that company officials are concerned about safety and security, and work closely with police and transportation departments worldwide. "These relationships keep citizens safe, promote faster emergency response and help alleviate traffic congestion," she said. "Police partners support Waze and its features, including reports of police presence, because most users tend to drive more carefully when they believe law enforcement is nearby."

Meanwhile, there are no statistics that prove that the feature in Waze reduces crime by giving the general public the ability to track law enforcement. Some law enforcement officials say the Waze executives making the decision to keep the feature do not think like criminals, which can present issues for the officers.

"What about the safety of the officers?" asked one law enforcement official.

While Waze's Mossler might believe in the statement, many law enforcement officials do not support reports of police presence, which can hinder undercover operations and investigations. 

4 comments about "Google's Waze Real-Time Reporting App Criticized For Tracking Police".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Noah Wieder from SearchBug, Inc., January 28, 2015 at 6:37 p.m.

    How would a Wazer know to report police presence if they were undercover? Are they at a stake out all night sitting in their vehicle and Wazer's are thinking.. hmm. these people have been sitting in this car for hours and hours, eating, sleeping, watching.. must be police so I should put in on Waze, I think not.

    I've never reported police presence in Waze unless I'm on the freeway and see them on the side of the road (certainly not if moving). Besides, if they are moving and you report it, they won't be there for the next Wazer anyway. What's the point?

    Since I'm driving and using a GPS to save time, avoid traffic and hazards, and get to my destination quickly and safely, my priority is certainly not thinking about clicking buttons on my phone to report police presence.

    If Wazer's are reporting undercover officer presence, IMHO, I would say the officers aren't very "undercover".

  2. Laurie Sullivan from lauriesullivan, January 28, 2015 at 8:54 p.m.

    You are probably not a gang member or undesirable person looking to do others harm.

  3. Darby Bowler from Drury University, January 29, 2015 at 3:57 p.m.

    I am impressed by the Waze app and believe that I would find myself interested in being a user. However, I agree with the statements made by the concerned police organizations. If the app lets you know the location of policeman in the field, then is that putting their lives in danger. With the recent attacks on the police should the app be pulled from the market? Is this a violation of their privacy or is it a case of public information that should be shared.
    Google is using the fear of getting a ticket as incentive to use the app. Waze spokeswoman Julie Mossler stated "Most users tend to drive more carefully when they believe law enforcement is nearby," (
    The question then becomes one of what is the right thing to do. Do I use an app that could be putting others in harms way to save me time or do I choose to take a stand and find another GPS program?

    Student - Drury University
    Cited Sources:
    Johannesen, R. L., Valde, K. S., & Whedbee, K. E. (2008). Ethics in Communication. (6th ed.). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, INC.

  4. Noah Wieder from SearchBug, Inc., January 29, 2015 at 5:21 p.m.

    I can appreciate where you're coming from but gang members and undesirables certainly don't need a GPS app to figure out where the police are.

    I'll paraphrase from an article I'll post below:

    There are tons of alternatives. Cops congregate at police stations and make regular appearances at courthouses. They drive marked cars and wear uniforms. They often congregate informally in the same parking lots day after day. Anyone can also easily listen to a police scanner (for which there are also several apps available).

    If Gang members and undesirable individuals were intent on locating and harming police officers they could easily use pre-paid (burner) cell phones, or spoof caller ID to call 911, then report a bogus crime to summon the police to specific areas and then have at it.

    IMHO, I'm in agreement with Conor Friedersforf, author of the article below as well as Sgt. Heather Randol, spokeswoman for the San Jose Police Department that told the SJ Mercury News: "We want to be seen; part of the department's service is being highly visible on patrol to reduce crime," she said.

    SFPD spokesman Albie Esparza said the app could be helpful in reducing road accidents. "Someone is less likely to speed if they know a police officer is around the corner. It also helps with public safety so people know where there is an officer to get help."

    Conor Friedersforf - Full Article:

Next story loading loading..