Apple & Google asked to ban checkpoint apps

Faith Merino · March 28, 2011 · Short URL:

Attorneys General ask Apple and Google to ban apps that show drunk drivers how to avoid checkpoints

For shame, Apple and Google. The two companies are the target of a plea from attorneys general Douglas F. Gansler of Maryland and Beau Biden of Delaware to ban smartphone apps that help drivers avoid DUI checkpoints. The apps help drivers locate police checkpoints and send the locations to friends to avoid being pulled over and possibly slapped with a DUI. 

The two Attorneys General sent a letter to Apple and Google today to urge them to remove the apps from their app stores to protect the lives of others from reckless drunk drivers.

“These smartphone applications give drunk drivers a ‘how-to' guide to evade DUI checkpoints and endanger the lives of innocent citizens on our roads,” said Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler in a prepared statement.  “We strongly urge Google and Apple to take the most responsible and reasonable step and ban these types of applications altogether.  These are nothing more than an overt method of circumventing laws that were specifically enacted to save lives.”

“I'm deeply concerned that these smartphone applications reduce our ability to get impaired drivers off the streets and protect our families from the tragic consequences of drinking and driving,” said Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden in a statement.  “Automobiles with drunk drivers behind the wheel are deadly weapons.  I am urging Apple to do the right thing and join us in keeping drunk drivers off our roads, not provide them with a road map to avoid checkpoints that are meant to protect our families.”

Checkpoint-avoiding apps range from the pragmatic ("For those who just enjoy going out for a beer every once in a while") to the outlandish (one app, .Tipsy., is produced by a company called For those of us who have been stopped at a police checkpoint after having one or two drinks know that the moment when the officer asks you if you've had anything to drink tonight can be terrifying. Even if you only had one or two glasses of wine with dinner, you start wracking your brain: "How long ago was that? Was that before I ate or after? What's my weight to alcohol ratio? I'll just say no." The act of selecting an app and locating the DUI checkpoints on a mobile map should qualify as a sobriety test in itself. 

Apple is no stranger to controversial apps. Last week it came under intense media scrutiny for a "Gay Cure" app known as Exodus International, which was released in February by an anti-gay Christian group that claims to be able to cure gay iPhone owners of their homosexuality "through the power of Jesus." LGBT groups petitioned to have the app removed, and Apple was quick to comply, despite the fact that the app was given a 4+ rating upon release, meaning the app had no objectionable or offensive material. 

Previously, Apple was criticized for releasing the Manhattan Declaration mobile app, which called for all Christians to unite in their opposition to gay marriage and abortion. The app's four-question survey was particularly controversial, as it posed questions like: “Do you believe in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman?”  Users who answered “no” were told that their choice was “incorrect.” The app was removed after a petition that included only 7,700 signatures. Christian groups retaliated and called for Apple to reinstate the app, and their petition grew to include tens of thousands. 

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