Apple drops DUI checkpoint apps, Google stands pat

Apple has agreed to reject smart-phone applications that would inform users of DUI checkpoints, after a group of senators sent a letter of concern to the company, as well as to Google and Research in Motion (RIM), back in late March.

Democrats Harry Reid of Nevada, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Charles Schumer of New York and Tom Udall of New Mexico wrote an open letter to the companies March 22, GCN reported at the time.

Autoblog reported June 8 that Apple announced the change to its iOS apps approval process in conjunction with this week’s Worldwide Developers Conference. Section 22.8 of the guide states that “apps which contain DUI checkpoints that are not published by law enforcement agencies, or encourage and enable drunk driving, will be rejected”.

After the senators wrote their letter, RIM immediately pulled two apps, Trapster and PhantomAlert, which also list speed traps, enforcement cameras and other road hazards.

Google has not taken any action. During a May hearing, Alan Davidson, director of public policy at Google, said the apps do not violate its policies, reported PC Magazine. He did note that Google was internally discussing the issue.

Some police forces and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) have downplayed the risk of such apps. Indiana State Police Sgt. Dave Bursten told the Fox59 news station in Indianapolis that listing their locations could discourage people from drinking and driving, while Laura Dean-Mooney, national president of MADD, told the station that police roam around near the checkpoints, making it likely they would spot a drunken driver attempting to avoid a checkpoint, GCN reported.

Banning the apps from the marketplace does not make them unavailable, though. PhantomAlert said downloads skyrocketed after the senators’ request. Similarly, since most of the checkpoint locations are crowd-sourced, users could submit them without the app developer’s knowledge, noted Autoblog.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were still several DUI checkpoint apps in Apple’s store, including DUI Dodger, MrDUI, and Buzzed, PC Magazine wrote.

Neither Google nor RIM have modified their app review guidelines yet, although both may do so after Apple’s announcement, Autoblog reported.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.


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