In a cease and desist letter sent Saturday, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) demanded that Google stop sharing the location of Driving While Impaired (DWI) checkpoints on its navigation app, Waze. In the letter, signed by department’s acting deputy commissioner for legal matters, Ann P. Prunty, the NYPD explained that under the city’s Vision Zero initiative its trying to eliminate all traffic fatalities and “paramount to the success of this initiative” is the police enforcing all DWI laws.

“This letter serves to put you on notice that the NYPD has become aware that the Waze Mobile application, a community-driven GPS navigation application owned by Google LLC, currently permits the public to report DWI checkpoints through New York City and map these locations on the application,” the letter read. “Accordingly, we demand that Google LLC, upon receipt of this letter, immediately remove this function from the Waze application.” The NYPD also demanded that Google take steps to ensure that similar data cannot be posted to the app or any of Google’s web properties in the future.

The NYPD also alleged that users posting the location of DWI checkpoints may be engaging in criminal conduct since “such actions could be intentional attempts to prevent and/or impair the administration of the DWI laws.”

It is important to note that there isn’t a dedicated DWI report feature in Waze. Rather, users can only report the presence of police and then leave a detailed note on the app explaining what the police are doing, such as acting as a speed trap of conducting a DWI checkpoint.

However, it does appear as though Google isn’t rushing to remove the feature from Waze.

“Safety is a top priority when developing navigation features at Google,” Google said in a statement on Wednesday. “We believe that informing drivers about upcoming speed traps allows them to be more careful and make safer decisions when they’re on the road.”

If Google refuses to back down, this may turn into a lengthy legal battle. In the letter, the NYPD said it would “pursue all legal remedies to prevent the continued posting of this irresponsible and dangerous information.” Additionally, NYPD said that it will enlist the cooperation of other law enforcement agencies and localities in its effort.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs