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Crime Government Handhelds Iphone Apple

Senators To Apple: Pull iPhone DUI-Check Alerts 348

CWmike writes "Four US senators on Tuesday called on Apple to yank iPhone and iPad apps that help drunken drivers evade police, saying the programs are 'harmful to public safety.' The CEO of the company that makes one such app said the senators' demand was 'a knee-jerk reaction.'" Hugh Pickens points out that "Similar apps are available for the iPhone and RIM. Apple released a set of App Store guidelines in September that spells out what apps are and are not allowed to do. Included on that list of 'don'ts' are 'apps that encourage excessive consumption of alcohol or illegal substances, or encourage minors to consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes.'"
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Senators To Apple: Pull iPhone DUI-Check Alerts

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  • No boobs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by unixcrab ( 1080985 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @08:13AM (#35584626)
    Apple's puritanical censors don't allow boobs in the app store but have no problem with apps like this? Someone's moral compass is a bit wonky...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Sounds fairly typical for America.

    • Re:No boobs (Score:5, Funny)

      by gandhi_2 ( 1108023 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @08:29AM (#35584764) Homepage

      It is the moral declination.

      Depending on where you are, the difference between grid moral and magnetic moral can be quite significant. In my area, the GM angle is like 13.5 degrees.... if I don't account for that, I can easily get morally lost.

    • Perhaps Apple's problem lies with all the possible legal entanglements of selling porn in $DEITY knows how many jurisdictions and that they've figured that the profits from peddling porn are less than what they'd lose from people who don't want to shop in "that kind of store".

      For all the whining about porn how much of yours do you pay for? How many people would pay for quality porn apps? How many picture-collection apps would be clogging up the App Store (do you recall when it was flooded by picture-collect

    • Apple's puritanical censors don't allow boobs in the app store but have no problem with violence in games? Someone's moral compass is a bit wonky...

      There, fixed that for you. Seriously, DUI checkpoint reporting is no worse than speedcam or traffic jam reporting - it's just information bartering, albeit in a bit of a grey legal area.

      Want to really prevent drunk driving? Criminalize alcohol, just like all other hard drugs. But then again, that would be a major financial blow to both taxes and political pocket

  • Traffic Situation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by crow_t_robot ( 528562 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @08:18AM (#35584670)
    DUI check points are normally semi-hazardous traffic situations where cops have cars lined up on the side of the road with pedestrians and officers standing outside their vehicles near the boundary paint of the highway. They also cause significant traffic back-ups and delays. Knowing of these locations is useful for non-drinkers if they have to be somewhere on-time or don't want to be put in the situation to have to navigate a ludicrous human-slalom course. Just like almost any application, it can be used for good and evil. Knee-jerk, MADD-influenced political campaigning HHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO....
  • Public Information (Score:5, Interesting)

    by malignant_minded ( 884324 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @08:18AM (#35584672)
    I don't read the newspaper but aren't these checkpoints announced in the paper ahead of time. Why is getting a reminder wrong. I don't drink but I don't necessarily want to get slowed down driving through these, in fact when I can see inspection sticker checks ahead I usually go out of my way to avoid them even with valid tags. I find it's best to avoid police at all costs.
    • Similarly: Just because I'm driving the speed limit, I stay between the lines, my registration's up to date, and I'm not under the influence of any drugs, it doesn't mean I'm comfortable having a police car right behind me for 10 miles. I try to look for the first non-suspicious location to get out of the way.
      • Indeed I do the same thing. I find it is like this with anything. Just because I know how to configure a server doesn't mean I like having someone breathing down my neck watching what I am doing at all times. People need space or they get stressed out and make mistakes they wouldn't normally do because now they are more focussed on not doing something wrong.
      • A friend was heading home on an empty highway late one night after work, hadn't had anything to drink, was doing the speed limit, and obeying all traffic laws. He got pulled over.

        Why? After determining my friend was free to go, the officer said there's plenty of drivers who know they're just above the legal limit (recently revised downward here, to a blood alcohol level of 0.05%, so quite a few women can't even have a single drink now) and do everything to avoid suspicion by being the best possible driver.


    • by CaptBubba ( 696284 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @09:21AM (#35585250)

      They HAVE to be publicized to be legal in the US. This is because part of the legal logic used to find checkpoints OK is they serve as a deterrent, which can't happen if they are kept secret.

      And yes, it is a good idea to avoid the checkpoints like the plague. The vast majority of citations and arrests they make have absolutely nothing to do with DUI. At any particular moment there are likely dozens of violations on your car which you can be written up for. Even when I drove my brand new car off the lot it had equipment issues I could be ticketed for (the dealership put those plastic things around the license plates).

  • non-illegal use. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @08:21AM (#35584704) Homepage Journal

    Sorry, this doesn't fly for me. If an app is produced that is 100% for evading police I would say it wasn't appropriate, but believe it or not there are actually uses for this app that have nothing to do with evading a drunk driving charge. I don't drink at all and if I still lived in Indianapolis I would probably download it because I don't want to be involved with such checkpoints. I don't see how that is wrong.

    Besides, how is a drunk person going to be able to use the app anyway. They'll break the phone first.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by slim ( 1652 )

      Besides, how is a drunk person going to be able to use the app anyway. They'll break the phone first.

      I see that your (perfectly valid) choice not to drink, leaves you ignorant of the basics of drunkenness.

      After, say, 2 pints of beer, you can walk without swaying, talk without slurring, and certainly operate a phone. You'd be perfectly capable of driving a car, too, if you could guarantee there wouldn't be any surprises. It's when the car in front brakes suddenly, or there's a loose bit of tyre in your lane, etc. that you'd discover your reactions aren't as quick or accurate as you'd like them to be.


      • yeah, it was a VERY weak joke.

        • by slim ( 1652 )

          Fair enough. I have genuinely met people IRL who where convinced that half a bitter turned you from Dr Jekyll to Mr Hyde. It wouldn't surprise me if such people held local government positions in some places.

      • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *

        Well alcohol inhibits inhibitory (GABAergic) neurons first - the problem is not so much one of reaction time (the classic yet false argument) or not being aware of your surroundings. You need far more than 0.08mg/dl for that. There is minimal reflex loss but in a vehicle it always comes down to speed and braking distance. 0.5 seconds (I exaggerate, you don't lose half a second from your reflex time with 2 beers in you) or so is not the end of the world at 30mph - that's not even a foot of distance traveled.

        • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
          Meh - forgot to multiply by 30 - at 30mph you travel around 22 feet in half a second. My bad. But then again I think you lose 0.1 seconds or so off your reaction time. Much less than a car length.
  • Remember the stupid story making the rounds yesterday about Apple sending a free iPad2 to the man who reported, "Wife said No."?

    Yeah well Apple should send the elected officials, "Apple Says No."

  • by MadJo ( 674225 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @08:27AM (#35584752) Homepage Journal

    And in what capacity do these apps encourage excessive consumption of alcohol?

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      anything can encourage that.
      the problem with apples rules are that they really wouldn't allow even donald duck comics stories from seventies. would they allow britney spears? and why do they then allow a lot of music with lyrics that encourage drinking..

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
      No, they discourage the seizure of vehicles and assets because of reduced drunk driving prosecutions. Because somehow politicians have it in their head that taking your car and auctioning it, and imposing a 5 or 6 digit fine on you, will somehow bring more income than the lost tax revenue while you're in jail plus the cost of keeping you in jail.
  • by Aqualung812 ( 959532 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @08:27AM (#35584754)

    I always get a chuckle from the police that freak out over apps like this.

    Police: Learn to use the false sense of security that these apps give lawbreakers.

    Run the same apps in your police car. Have the department buy you a smartphone if needed, they are much cheaper than some of your other police toys.
    When a speedtrap app spots you, you'll get an alert since it thinks you're just another speeder. Move 1 mile against traffic and trap the speeders before they get the alert.
    When a DUI checkout app spots your checkpoint, post a couple of police on the obvious alternate routes that DUI people would use to avoid the posted checkpoint.
    Hell, save time and post the checkpoint yourself, and then give a closer inspection to all of the people that take the gravel road the GPS recommends to avoid the checkpoint that NO ONE ever drives on. Your % of DUI drivers should be higher in that group.

    These things make it easier on the police, not harder, if they would adapt to it!

    • by slim ( 1652 )

      Yay arms races. They always benefit society.

      • So, you think it is better to try to ban an app (only on non-jailbroken iPhones, as Androids and rooted devices can certainly still run these apps) and pretended it isn't something to worry about anymore than to use the app to your advantage?

        I'm not suggesting an arms race. That would be more like trying to detect the users of the app with some tech, and then more tech to hide the users (see radar detector detector detectors).

        I'm suggesting turning your adversary's weapon into your advantage. Very differen

        • by slim ( 1652 ) <john@hartnup . n et> on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @08:50AM (#35584924) Homepage

          I'm not making a point about whether or not it's right to suppress (not ban) the app, here.

          I'm just pointing out that if the police start doing what you suggest, an arms race is pretty much inevitable.

          - public use app to avoid DUI checks
          - police reposition DUI checks to defeat the app
          - public leave bad app reviews since app is now giving inaccurate results
          - developers somehow improve accuracy of app
          - GOTO 10

          • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

            ...which is all moronic.

            You don't need special purpose Constitution shredding roadblocks in order to catch the serious problem drinkers.

            That's pretty much what the definition of a problem drinker is: Someone that gets caught on non-holidays.

            All that's needed is good old-fashioned non-Gestapo police work.

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      most people driving under influence wouldn't care to check such an app, it's an extra bother.

      there's this saying that "nobody would drive drunk if they were sober", a reference to drunks who use "i was drunk, it's not my fault" excuse when they get caught DUI.

      but posting information where you saw cops.. well, that should be free to report. and if somebody doesn't like that kind of freedom, they can always move to syria.

    • by ktappe ( 747125 )

      [police], save time and post the checkpoint yourself, and then give a closer inspection to all of the people that take the gravel road the GPS recommends to avoid the checkpoint that NO ONE ever drives on. Your % of DUI drivers should be higher in that group.

      These things make it easier on the police, not harder, if they would adapt to it!

      Please mod parent up. It makes a lot of sense. Of course, that's why the police won't take any of the suggestions....

    • by Splab ( 574204 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @09:13AM (#35585164)

      Interestingly, here in Denmark, police welcome these kinds of apps. They are not in the business of writing tickets, but they try to make roads safer; if an app alerts that there's a speed trap on some major highway, that means a full afternoon of *most* people driving like they should have been.

      During high drinking seasons (Christmas and Easter for instance) they are always out in the newspapers warning people that they will be making more checks and focusing on this.

      But of course, for this to make sense it requires the police to be in the business of preventing and not collecting.

      • They actually do this in America too, but people don't pay attention and then spout off about the police collecting money. They even do advertisements on the radios warning that police will be out in force issuing tickets for aggressive driving for the next 2 weeks and stuff like that, and there's always many a news story about how tough the enforcement campaigns will be during holiday travel seasons.
    • Years ago, a friend had a 5 minute long conversation about how cops were incredible assholes, speeding tickets were just revenue collection (which they are), etc. Shortly after the conversation ended, he got pulled over for speeding, and the cop walked up, said hello, and asked him if he'd like to continue the conversation. He'd been chatting with the (bored) cop.
  • by eNygma-x ( 1137037 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @08:32AM (#35584786)
    I just downloaded because you brought it to my attention... and I don't drink and drive.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "PhantomALERT is a 100% legal service. If they really understood what we are doing and aim to achieve they would actually support us." [...] "The idea is to deter drivers from drinking and driving. When drivers get alerts for DUI checkpoints on their smart phones and GPS, they will think twice about drinking and driving."

    The idea is fine. The idea is what police departments, in testimonials on their own site, defend (note that I'm not counting the ones that state the service is legal, that's not a defense

    • CEO is so full of shit - he could be a septic tank

      for a second there, i thought you were using british slang for yank :P

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @08:36AM (#35584810) Journal
    And I really hope that they crash into something inanimate before they kill somebody else; but is anybody else pretty creeped out by the notion that secret checkpoints along public roads sounds more like an idea borrowed from a 60's era communist villain(Your papers, citizen...) than a good idea?

    Just start talking in slightly more stilted language(try "Guilty of disseminating information harmful to public safety") and you'll be basically indistinguishable from the average translated kangaroo-court verdict...
    • by gknoy ( 899301 )

      Wait until you read about the immigration checkpoints in Arizona. It's a rabbit hole of WTF with similar time-wasting potential as a link to TVTropes, but with added horror.

  • by ultraexactzz ( 546422 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @08:38AM (#35584826) Journal
    The entire point of DUI checkpoints is not to actually arrest the drunk drivers dumb enough to pull up. The point is to show that, if you do drive drunk, big angry men with guns will arrest you. This is why they announce the checkpoints beforehand - check your paper or local news website, you'll find an article announcing checkpoints a day or two before they go up. It's not investigative, it's (supposed to be) a deterrent.

    Hell, Indiana had a series of billboards - nothing but the image of an orange traffic sign that said "Drunk Driving Checkpoint Ahead". Of course, the billboards were everywhere, and there was no actual checkpoint - but again, it's (supposed to be) a deterrent.

    If police forces do not want people knowing about the checkpoints, they should not announce them publicly. If it's a matter of the public record, then they can't fault an app for aggregating that public record.
    • by OhPlz ( 168413 )

      If police forces do not want people knowing about the checkpoints, they should not announce them publicly. If it's a matter of the public record, then they can't fault an app for aggregating that public record.

      I don't know about other states, but here in NH the courts require the police to give public notice x number of days in advance. The courts won't sign off on the checkpoint otherwise. So at least in my own state, there shouldn't be any argument over the app.

      They post the results afterwards. The last few I've seen, they didn't arrest any drunks. What they're really doing is looking for registration and inspection stickers, lights out, and such. To me, these roadblocks are just a lazier way for the polic

  • If a guy can knock back a few and actually use a iPhone touch screen or a Blackberry keyboard, he is good to go behind the wheel!
  • Illegal in the UK? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tx ( 96709 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @08:41AM (#35584848) Journal

    In the UK, warning others of a police speed trap e.g. by flashing your lights is a criminal offence [] which will get you hauled into court and fined. So I wonder if these apps would even be legal in the UK (I don't have an iOS device, so I don't know if such things are on sale here).

    On the other hand, satnavs with speed camera warnings seem to be legal, but in that case you can argue that the aim is to help you keep your speed down in dangerous areas, i.e. to avoid committing the offence in the first place, whereas with dodging DUI checks, the offence has already been committed, you're just trying to avoid being caught.

    • by slim ( 1652 )

      We don't have DUI checks here in the UK. I've experienced one once, while on holiday in the US. Basically they narrow the road down with cones, put up signs telling you to slow down, flag your car down as you pass, ask you if you've been drinking, and assuming you say no, and they haven't a reason to think you're lying, they send you on your way.

      Of course, that's my experience as a white man in a hire car, with the English accent of a tourist.

      So it's quite different from speed traps. I personally think spee

  • by howardd21 ( 1001567 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @08:42AM (#35584856) Homepage
    I just don't understand, can somebody make a car analogy for me?
  • BS....politicians (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hesaigo999ca ( 786966 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @08:46AM (#35584890) Homepage Journal

    They know this will hurt their wallet, and are using this as the only means to pin point a good reason why not allow it.
    First off, someone failing a D&D test would also not be smart enough to remember to use an iphone to evade cops.

    And if someone realizes that this is to avoid speed traps, to warn people of possible traffic because of accidents, then become a bit more cunning in setting up your traps, once you nab 2 or 3, move to a next vantage point, and stop thinking that you can sit there for 3 hours to get your monthly quota of tickets. I have friends that are cops, but they never tell me where they will be, I get to find out when i speed past a trap, so if I have a website or app that tells me this, I will consult it to watch my speed, not to change course...

    They should also ban the iPhone because you can open it up and stash some drugs inside if you remove the hard drive, and they would never know at the airport....they should ban the iphone for that....or wait they could ban politicians altogether, because you can hide drugs by sticking some up their *sses, so technically it is being used for something it was not designed to, so let's abolish all politicians because people can use them to carry drugs across borders.

  • Here I go with another reverse cowgirl theory. If cops want to catch drunk drivers, then get more cops or improve the ways to catch them or increase visible policing. Removing some app from an iPhone isn't going to stop people driving drunk. How ridiculous... If I was too drunk to drive, I'd be too drunk to use my phone to look up road blocks. If they're that worried build in some simple sobriety test, like solving some simple 5 * 7 + 13 math puzzle... Or decrease the supply of donuts to the police force.
  • Where's the Android app for this?

  • There's a easy fix for this app (and all similar apps): Make the user *earn* the right to use the app by forcing them to prove they're not legally impaired. If they can't find Waldo, or some other such test, then they'll have to pull over or take their chances and hope they don't find the checkpoints.
  • Okay, I'm not condoning drunk driving. It's deadly dangerous full stop. However, the state has no right to prevent me from knowing the locations of DUI checkpoints, or patrol cars that are camping behind billboards, or in unlit parking lots, etc. I find it completely unacceptable that US Senators would suggest we begin employing secret police tactics like those used by the STASI in cold-war era East Germany. iPhone app, Android, whatever, that doesn't matter guys. Next they'll tell you can't text the l
  • First, I am not condoning driving under the influence. To me this is a constitutional matter. Law enforcement can set up a Gestapo type check point and all they have to do is make an announcement on a low wattage radio station as to the location of the check point and the law says this is enough to consider the public informed. Typically they only do this the afternoon before the checkpoint is set up. This is fundamentally unconstitutional. You should not be subjected to being stopped and questioned for no
  • Police actions are a matter of public record. They announce RIDE (roadside checks) on the radio around here all the time. Perhaps if a driver knew he would be checked he wouldnt drive... and isnt that the end game? or is the end game to nail as many as possible to reap cash rewards in the form of fines.. I don't drive drunk, and I don't condone it. With the way the laws are going here (in Ontario), 1 beer is enough to ruin your life. So I stay where I am not matter what. I see nothing wrong with this
  • When police are flagrantly violating the 4th amendment to the US constitution, interfering with the freedom of travel on what in Britain is called "the King's highway", and costing drivers time and fuel, and making some late to appointments, surely the citizens have every right to warn each other of where the illegal activity is being conducted so they can simply avoid going there.

  • by Maltheus ( 248271 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @10:31AM (#35586058)

    People are so hyper about drinking and driving, which is often tragic, but mostly goes unnoticed and without incident. From what I've observed, people on cell phones are even more dangerous and absent minded behind the wheel. I'm not sure that I'm for a ban, but I find it hypocritical to condemn one action while implicitly endorsing the other (so long as you aren't using this app, of course).

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.