Research in Motion (RIM) – succumbing to heavy pressure by U.S. politicians – has agreed to remove all BlackBerry apps designed to help drivers evade DUI checkpoints.
“Drunk drivers will soon have one less tool to evade law enforcement and endanger our friends and families,” trumpeted Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in a statement obtained by The Hill.
“We appreciate RIM’s immediate reply and urge the other smartphone makers to quickly follow suit.”
However, Morgan Reed, executive director of the Association for Competitive Technology, harshly criticized the Senate quartet for demanding the removal of wildly popular apps such as Trapster and PhantomALERT.
“While I applaud the Senators for seeking to curb drunk driving, their criticism of online travel apps misses the point. These programs feature information about speed and red light cameras by mapping publicly available information provided by law enforcement agencies,” Reed told TG Daily in an e-mailed statement.
“There is also a social networking element of the apps which allows users to submit traffic information so drivers can avoid traffic jams. This makes these programs very popular attracting tens of millions of users. Law enforcement authorities have embraced these services expressing their strong approval for products that reduce speeding and improve traffic safety.”
According to Reed, the traffic apps rely on user-submitted and law enforcement provided information. Therefore, any one of the programs’ users can submit a warning about a traffic obstruction as simply as emailing a friend or posting a message on their Facebook profile.
“The suggestion that the government should compel Apple, RIM, or other mobile application stores to block programs that simply allow users to report information based on location is misguided at best.
“Taken to its [extreme] conclusion, that would require blocking apps like Foursquare and Loopt. Having the government act as arbiter of which products should be sold in stores is a slippery slope that few would welcome,” he added.