Published March 23, 2011
Four U.S. Senators are calling for smartphone makers to remove apps used to locate DUI checkpoints and speed traps, calling the programs “harmful to public safety.”
In a letter to Google (GOOG), Apple (AAPL) and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIMM) on Tuesday, Democrats Frank Lautenberg, Charles Schumer, Tom Udall and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid underlined the companies’ commitment to social responsibility, asking the apps be removed from online stores or altered to remove the driving while intoxicated checkpoint function.
“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,” the Senators said in the letter.
Hearing their call, RIM said Wednesday it would remove the app from its BlackBerry phones. The other carriers have yet to make public statements.
The telecom companies are required to approve all apps before they are launched in the market, a method many have used to help mediate adult-content applications.
Apple, which recently came under criticism for a religious app it offered that focused on "curing" homosexuality, pulled the controversial program from its iconic App Store following outcry from some 146,000 people who submitted a massive petition seeking its elimination.
The DUI apps, including PhantomAlert and Buzzed, help drivers identify local police enforcement zones, including speed traps and DUI checkpoints, updated in real-time using databases and GPS data. The apps, which also alert the user to traffic cameras, school zones, accidents and dangerous curves, have surged in popularity, with one reaching 10 million users.
In an interview with ComputerWorld, PhantomAlert's chief executive, Joe Scott, said the service is completely legal, noting that Washington would "actually support" the program had they "really understood" its intentions.