A group of US Senators have sent an email to Apple, requesting them to remove iPhone apps that provide DUI (Driving Under Influence) checkpoint (also called “sobriety roadblocks”) locations from the App Store.
U.S. Senators Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) are named as senders in the letter, which is addressed to Apple’s senior vice president of iPhone software, Scott Forstall. No specific applications are named, but the letter highlights apps that “contain a database of DUI [driving under the influence] checkpoints updated in real-time” as well as one that sends out real-time alerts about the existence of these checkpoints.
“With more than 10,000 Americans dying in drunk-driving crashes every year, providing access to iPhone and iPad applications that alert users to DUI checkpoints is harmful to public safety,” the group wrote. “We know that your company shares our desire to end the scourge of drunk driving and we therefore would ask you to remove these applications from your store.”
The data on the live police traps comes from other tipsters (users) on the Trapster Network, which is frequently updated thanks to the more than 11 million users.
The US Senators have sent a similar letter to Google and Research in Motion. RIM has already agreed to remove apps like Trapster that provide DUI checkpoint locations from the App World.
Here’s a full copy of the letter (courtesy CNET):
Mr. Scott Forstall
Senior Vice President, iPhone Software
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014
Dear Mr. Forstall,
We write today with grave concern regarding the ease with which downloadable applications for the iPhone, iPad, and other Apple products allow customers to identify where local police officers have set up DUI checkpoints. With more than 10,000 Americans dying in drunk-driving crashes every year, providing access to iPhone and iPad applications that alert users to DUI checkpoints is harmful to public safety.
We know that your company shares our desire to end the scourge of drunk driving and we therefore would ask you to remove these applications from your store.
One application, your company acknowledges in the product description, contains a database of DUI checkpoints updated in real-time. Another application, with more than 10 million users, also allows users to alert each other to DUI checkpoints in real time.
Police officers from across the country have voiced concern about these products, with one police captain saying, “If people are going to use those, what other purpose are they going to use them for except to drink and drive?” With a person dying every 50 minutes in a drunk-driving crash, this technology should not be promoted to your customers–in fact, it shouldn’t even be available.
We appreciate the technology that has allowed millions of Americans to have information at their fingertips, but giving drunk drivers a free tool to evade checkpoints, putting innocent families and children at risk, is a matter of public concern. We hope that you will give our request to remove these applications from your store immediate consideration.
Thank you for your prompt and careful consideration of this matter. Should you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact our offices.
When Trapster had launched the iPhone app more than two years back, they had tried to address concerns about the legality of their app:
“If you are concerned you should probably check the laws in your state or country, but our lawyers don’t think so. In fact, the police we’ve spoken with actually like the idea. It beeps, people slow down, they have met their objective, you save money on the ticket and insurance, and everyone is happy.”
What do you think? Should Apple remove apps like Trapster from the App Store? Please share your views in the comments section below.