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Senators Latest Target: Smartphone DUI Apps

An app created by the Canadian based creators of Blackberry, Research In Motion, has recently been pulled off the company’s online store after a formal request from four U.S. senators.

Known as the ” DUI app,” it allows users to pinpoint the exact locations of local police checkpoints using GPS. The apps also locate traffic cameras and speed traps.

Web applications like these, however, are gaining widespread attention by law enforcement and legislative officials across the country.

Senators Harry Reid, D-Nevada; Charles Schumer, D-New York; Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey and Tom Udall, D-New Mexico collectively wrote a letter to the company asking that the app and others like it be removed from the company’s online store because of the potential for users to evade law enforcement and the risk that drunk driving accidents could increase as a result of these programs.

During a hearing for the new Senate subcommittee on privacy in technology, Senator Schumer specifically argued that these apps “endanger public safety by allowing drunk drivers to avoid police checkpoints.”

The letter did not name any app specifically but generally referred to a number of apps they felt were inappropriate. Some of the mentioned features in the letter included one app which had a database of all DUI checkpoints in real time and has over 10 million users.

The senators also asked RIM, Apple and Google to stop selling and distributing the app.

Apps Offer Other Helpful Services

While officials are quick to point out the so-called dangers associated with these Web applications, many of these apps provide services to users other than the location of a DUI checkpoint. Taxi finder features that allow you to find a quick cab and red-light cameras that help drivers from driving recklessly through lights are helpful facets that come with these apps.

Further, some say, the argument that these DUI apps allow users to evade law enforcement doesn’t hold up.

During a hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on privacy and technology, Guy Tribble, Apple’s vice President for Software Technology, made a good point. He said that law enforcement officials everywhere already make DUI checkpoint locations public. Whether it’s via Facebook or other public domain, the Indiana Police Department, Cleveland Ohio Police and Los Angeles Police Department have all notified the public of particular DUI checkpoint locations in the past.

Future of DUI Apps

Last month, RIM is the only company that has complied with the senators’ request and removed these applications from their online store.

Google and Apple have committed to responding to Congress on the issue of whether they have violated specific provisions of their terms of service.

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