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Apple looking into senate request for DUI checkpoint app removals

During a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, Apple Vice President of Software Technology Guy L. "Bud" Tribble told senators that the company is in the process of "looking into" the legality of apps that broadcast police DUI checkpoints.

Four U.S. Senators, including Sen. Charles Schumer, sent letters to Apple, Google and Research in Motion in March requesting that the companies remove apps notifying users of police sobriety checkpoints their respective application stores. Schumer raised the issue again at Tuesday's Senate subcommittee hearing on privacy.

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., scheduled the hearing, which was entitled "Protecting Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, Cell Phones and Your Privacy," after reports surfaced that Apple and Google were tracking users via location database files in iOS and Google Android.

Tribble, who served as manager of Apple's original Macintosh software development team and helped to design the original Mac OS and user interface, and Alan Davidson, Google's director of public policy for the Americas, participated in the second panel at Tuesday's hearing.

Schumer specifically took issue with apps like Buzz'd and Fuzz Alert, which "really only have one purpose:" to notify drivers when they get near checkpoints. "We brought these to the attention of RIM, they pulled the app down. I'm disappointed that Apple and Google did not. Why not?", This is my next reported Schumer as asking.

Davidson explained that Google's policy is to maintain and maximize openness, adding that the apps do not violate the company's policy. After being pressed further by Schumer, Davidson told the committee that Google is "actively discussing it" and he would take the senator's request back to the company.

"I hope that you narrowly look at this app. You agree that it is a terrible thing, and it probably causes death," Schumer responded.

Speaking on behalf of Apple, Tribble noted that some of the apps in question "are publishing data that's actually first published by the police department." However, Schumer dismissed the assertion as "sort of a weak read," adding that he knew of no police department "that would publish this [information] in realtime."

"We're in the process of looking into it — we have a policy that we don't allow apps that encourage illegal activity," Tribble replied. "If the apps intent is to encourage people to break the law, then we will pull it. I will take that back."

After encouraging Apple to make a distinction between "the police department and an app that updates in real time," Schumer asked that both Google and Apple get him an answer in a month's time.