These days you don’t have to purchase a fancy stand-alone GPS navigation system to know where you’re going. Apps like Google Maps and Waze have changed how we get from place to place, with voice-guided instructions at every turn. They have made it much easier to get around and avoid the headache of sitting through a traffic jam, but not everyone is thrilled about how the apps get used.

One homeowner in Maryland just got national attention for his attempts to thwart the app Waze from routing traffic down his street during times of congestion on main roads. Tired of seeing lots of cars going down his usually quiet street, Timothy Conner started to report fake obstacles and accidents on Waze in an attempt to stop the flow. Eventually, however, he was discovered and kicked off the app.

Maryland isn’t the only place to report anger at the app. Communities near freeways in the Bay Area say that they have also seen increases in traffic on what used to be considered fairly secret shortcuts. The situation brings up longstanding questions about public and private space. Does someone have the right to control what happens in the street outside of their house, or is there simply nothing to be done about it?

It might not just be homeowners who dislike Waze. Some rumor that the Miami Police Department has tried to interfere with the app's ability to point out speed traps and DUI checkpoints, for instance. And a group of Israeli students at one point hacked the app to show how it could be manipulated to send drivers into a trap.

But there are also many people who love having more direction about which roads to take. A lot of engineers are in awe of how Waze and other apps like it use the power of big data to give users actionable information that helps them get places faster.


Header Image: LIONEL BONAVENTURE / Staff