Both Google and Apple got an earful from Congress this week concerning a few different DUI checkpoint apps that were floating around in the App Store and Android Market. Senator Charles Schumer, who was one of four senators to spearhead resolving this issue through a letter to the companies in March, grilled both of the tech giants during the inaugural hearing of the Privacy and Technology Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary this week.
“Apple and Google shouldn’t be in the business of selling apps that help drunk drivers evade the police, and they shouldn’t be selling apps that they themselves admit are ‘terrible’,” said Schumer. Back in late March, Sen. Schumer joined Sens. Harry Reid, Frank Lautenberg, and Mark Udall in scribing a letter asking Google, Apple, and RIM to remove any DUI checkpoint apps from their app stores. RIM was the only company to comply.
Both Apple and Google still feature DUI checkpoint apps, with titles like Fuzz Alert, Buzzed, Checkpointer, or Tipsy. Some of these apps are even free, such as Checkpoint Wingman and Mr. DUI. What’s more is these applications show little to no shame in advertising their services. “The super small, one time fee of $4.99 spent today on Checkpointer could potentially save you thousands of dollars by helping you avoid an arrest for DUI,” read the app description.
At this week’s hearing, Google’s director of public policy Alan Davidson said that the company adheres to a set of content policies to remove apps that are unlawful or that spread malware, but that these DUI checkpoint apps are not a cause for concern. Apple’s response to the situation was that the company will be “looking into” the legality of DUI checkpoint apps. “We have a policy that we don’t allow apps that encourage illegal activity,” said Guy Tribble, VP of software technology at Apple. “If the app’s intent is to encourage people to break the law, then we will pull it.”
Schumer was displeased with both companies’ responses to the issue, calling it a “weak read” on the situation. Especially since Apple, in particular, hasn’t wasted time scrapping apps in the past. A “gay cure” app, an illegal immigrant smuggling game, and an app titled “Baby Shaker” have all been trashed by Apple after its consumers objected. Judging from the way this story is playing out, this won’t be the last time we see apps in a controversial spotlight.