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Apple's Iron Fist Gets It Right: No More DUI Checkpoint Apps On iTunes

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On: Fri, Jun 10, 2011 at 4:08PM | By: Chris Weiss

Apple's Iron Fist Gets It Right: No More DUI Checkpoint Apps On iTunes

I can't say I'm the biggest Apple fan. The company just tries to exert way too much control over its products, third-party developers building software for its products, and its customers. Imagine if your computer came from the store with all kinds of websites disabled, limiting what you could access on the Internet. In my opinion, people should be able to make decisions as to what content they can access on their own equipment.

But Apple has always maintained tight control over applications that run on the iPhone and iPad, famously banning all porn-y apps from the App Store. It reviews each app one by one, and then decides whether or not it's appropriate for the App Store—the only place to buy apps for Apple products. A little overbearing, to say the least.

But even control freaks like Mussolini got it right once in a while—trains running on time, etc. And Apple's official new policy of banning all apps that provide information about the location of DUI checkpoints gets it right.

Yes, I know that the arguments for not censoring content and cracking down on certain apps are at odds. But in the case of public safety, I think an exception is in order. Porn and fart apps don't hurt anyone, but DUI checkpoint apps are aimed largely at a demographic that's interested in locating checkpoints and avoiding them. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean they're drinking and driving—maybe they just want to avoid the hassle of getting pulled over, but it certainly empowers people to drink and drive and undercuts public safety efforts. So, eliminating them from mobile phones is a form of censorship that speaks to the greater good.

The new rule is part of the updated App Store review guidelines, which Apple revealed at the World Developers Conference this week. It reads: Apps which contain DUI checkpoints that are not published by law enforcement agencies, or encourage and enable drunk driving, will be rejected."

The move comes just a few months after Senators Harry Reid, (D-NV), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Tom Udall (D-NM) sent a letter to manufacturers including Apple, RIM (Blackberry), and Google (Android) requesting that they remove DUI-checkpoint apps from their respective stores. RIM complied immediately after receiving the letter, but Google, which maintains a much less-restricted, open atmosphere in its Android Market, has yet to comply. It did agree to review its guidelines in connection to the request, however.

The Senators were concerned with apps like PhantomAlert, which is designed to provide updates on all types of law enforcement activities—speed traps, red light cameras and DUI points, among them.

Unfortunately, there's already a loophole in the restrictions. Apps that provide these types of information typically rely on crowd-sourcing (i.e. people driving, seeing a DUI checkpoint, and then reporting it through the app). As such, it would be possible to build an app with no mention of DUI checkpoints—say by focusing just on things like traffic reports and speed traps—that was used to report DUI checkpoints by drivers.

But if one thing's certain, it's that Apple isn't afraid to step in and get what it wants, even if it means pissing off developers and consumers alike.



DipStick | 11:03AM (Mon, Jun 13, 2011)

Oh thank you Apple for saving us stupid Americans from the evils of Free markets...You can get the same thing for your Garmin GPS without the hassles of Apple...Just another reason to buy an Android


ou812 | 11:27AM (Mon, Jun 13, 2011)

does anyone really think a drunk is checking his apple app to see where there is a dui checkpoint....in any case if he is he is just as drunk driving on another road. It truely does not solve anything, but if they could develop a breatherlizer app that would disable the car, now that would be something cool.


jedi mindtrick | 11:46AM (Wed, Jun 15, 2011)

now if it also brethalizered (is that a word) now that would be a great app...

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