Professor Hannah Bloch-Wehba argues in an op-ed published Feb. 13 in Slate that New York City Police Department efforts to stop Waze from allowing users to report DUI checkpoints have little legal merit.
Claiming that the navigation app allows users to bypass DUI checkpoints and undermine drunk-driving laws, police have threatened legal action against Waze. Bloch-Wehba notes that the NYPD is one of several police departments that have pressured Google, Waze’s parent company, to prevent users from reporting such information through the app. She explained, however, that there is nothing that the police can do, as no crime is actually being committed.
“Publishing the location of a DWI checkpoint is not a crime – far from it. DWI checkpoints are quintessential police searches, intended to prevent the crime of drunken driving. According to several studies DWI checkpoints are more effective at preventing drunken driving when they are made public.
“Reporting or publishing such a type of activity is First Amendment-protected activity,” she added, contending that government efforts to prevent lawful publication of information by Waze users are “presumptively unconstitutional.”
Citing a current federal lawsuit alleging that NYPD has a history of placing checkpoints disproportionately in communities of color, Bloch-Wehba describes the threatened legal action as “doubly questionable.”
Bloch-Wehba is an authority on the intersection of civil liberties and cyber issues in the law, focusing on free expression, privacy, and government accountability. Prior to entering academia, she worked as a Stanton Foundation National Security Fellow for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.