Technology

Dumb Move: Apple Bans DUI Checkpoint App

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Wasn't it only a few years ago that Apple, maker of super-cool anti-Establishment imagery that often has computer equipment attached to it, pushing us to "Think Different"? Didn't they once run a famous ad that metaphorically showed an empowered personal computer user smashing the power wielded by great centralized governments and even private-sector actors? Maybe that ad was for a TRS-80 or something.

Damon Lavrinc of the essential Autoblog reports the latest dispactch from the Cupertino vanguard:

In conjunction with this week's Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple has updated its App Store Review Guidelines, and part of the new approval process includes a section that prohibits the inclusion of DUI checkpoints in iOS apps.

Section 22.8 states:

Apps which contain DUI checkpoints that are not published by law enforcement agencies, or encourage and enable drunk driving, will be rejected....

The updated terms come a few months after a group of U.S. Senators sent letters of concern to Apple, Google and RIM, asking the smartphone companies to remove any and all apps that would inform users of DUI checkpoints....

if history holds true, where Apple goes, so goes the industry...

More here.

Here's hoping that at least in this case, history is bunk. Blackberry maker RIM has already caved to the senators "request," which was seconded by state attorneys general such as Delaware's Beau Biden (Son-VP). But given the explosive growth of Droid-powered smartphones, maybe Apple won't equal destiny this around.

Lavrinc's short but depressing post also notes that 

While developers might be able to remove the DUI stop functionality from their apps, most of the programs that identify law enforcement activity and speed traps are crowd-sourced, meaning users could submit the checkpoints themselves without the app's devs knowing what they're identifying.

Let me add something even more damning of this latest development in corporate cave-ins to legally protected free speech and I'm gonna bold it for emphasis: Some police departments actually supply the data used in such apps because they reduce the number of drunk drivers on the roads! Somehow, I'm thinking that Steve Jobs circa 1984 (both the year and the ad) would have told U.S. senators sending threatening letters about computer-based info sharing to take a hike. Or at least to spend time on, I don't know, creating a freaking budget for the country rather than worrying about regulating something that helps reduce impaired driving.

Just last month, after RIM caved on the same question, Reason.tv released this video by me and Joshua Swain on the subject of banning DUI checkpoint apps. Check it out: