Apple updates App Store guidelines to ban most DUI apps

DUI checkpoint apps may be DOA on the iOS platform, after Apple quietly updated its App Store Review Guidelines to effectively ban apps that warn drivers of nearby police checkpoints. The move comes after members of Congress had put pressure on both Apple and Google to remove such offerings from their respective mobile app stores.

The update to Apple’s guidelines——which was posted on June 6, and which an Apple spokesperson verified to Macworld—includes a new entry in Section 22: Legal requirements. The last subitem on that list, number 22.8, now reads as follows:

Apps which contain DUI checkpoints that are not published by law enforcement agencies, or encourage and enable drunk driving, will be rejected.

Apple’s change of heart comes more than two months after four U.S. Senators sent a letter to Google and Apple asking that DUI checkpoint apps—which include programs like Buzzed, DUI Dodger, and Fuzz Alert Pro—be removed from the iOS and Android app stores. Congress ratcheted up the pressure even further last month during a hearing on location data. While that hearing ostensibly focused on privacy issues, Senator Charles Schumer of New York used his time on the floor to ask Apple executive Bud Tribble why Apple hadn’t removed or rejected apps that help drives avoid DUI checkpoints.

It’s a controversial issue that elicits strong opinions from both sides. Tribble, Apple’s vice president of software technology, told Schumer:

One of the things we found is that some of these apps are actually publishing data on when and where the checkpoints are [using information] published by the police departments. In some cases, the police department actually publishes when and where they’re going to have a checkpoint… They believe that these checkpoints provide a deterrent effect.

Apple’s updated policy singles out apps that share unpublished DUI checkpoints, but seemingly leaves wiggle-room for Apple to ban apps using public data—when that data is couched in terms of avoiding detection for driving under the influence. It seems likely that existing apps that do not follow these rules will be removed from the App Store as well.

A check of the App Store Wednesday revealed Fuzz Alert Pro has removed all mention of DUI checkpoints from its marketing, and the app no longer offers DUI data. At this writing, however DUI Dodger and Buzzed both remain in the App Store with their more singular DUI focuses intact.

Developers for Buzzed or Fuzz Alert did not respond immediately to Macworld’s request for comment. Google has not yet taken steps to remove such apps from its Android store. Research In Motion removed DUI checkpoint apps from its BlackBerry app store in March.

[Updated 6/8 at 3:19 PT with official Apple confirmation of the change in policy.]

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