Senators send letter to tech companies regarding DUI app

Four United States Senators recently sent a letter to Google, Apple and Research in Motion asking the companies to take down smartphone apps that could help drunk drivers avoid DUI checkpoints from their app store websites. Research in Motion, the company that produces Blackberry products, responded to the letter by agreeing to remove any apps that fit the Senators’ description from the company’s Blackberry App World.

The four Senators that sent the letter to the tech companies were Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.) The Senators’ letter was written in response to concerns from the law enforcement community. Those concerns are the use of smartphone apps that warn drivers about DUI checkpoints run counter to the purpose of enforcing drinking and driving laws and the prevention of car accidents caused by drunk drivers.

The letter did not name any certain applications but did provide a description of an application with a database of DUI checkpoints and a user base of over 10 million people. The letter was addressed to Scott Forstall, Senior Vice President of iPhone software for Apple, James L. Balsillie and Michael Lazaridis, co-CEO’s of Research in Motion and Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google. All three companies have their own rules for app design and purpose.

Google and Research in Motion have similar rules that prohibit app publishers from creating anything that is illegal or promotes dangerous behavior. Google has a policy of terminating app creators’ accounts if they create products that promote illegal behavior. Apple released its app publishing guidelines in the fall and has rules against apps that encourage illegal or dangerous behavior.

Whereas Research in Motion agreed to remove apps, Apple did not respond to the request and Google said it would remove applications that violate its policies but has not identified any apps that do so.

Source: CNET, “RIMS says it will pull drunken-driving apps,” Josh Lowensohn, 3/23/11

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