Police Targeting Waze

wazeSome police think Waze is dangerous and want Google to pull the plug on one of its key features. The social/traffic app is designed to provide drivers with information on highway congestion, accidents, and construction, but also allows them to tag the location of police speed traps with an icon indicating whether or not the police are hidden or visible from the highway.

This function, according to some in law enforcement, amounts to a “police stalking app.” LA Police Chief Charlie Beck wrote to Google CEO Larry Page last month urging him to disable the feature:

I am concerned about the safety of law enforcement officers and the community, and the potential for your Waze product to be misused by those with criminal intent. I look forward to opening a dialogue with you as to how Google can prevent the future misuse of the Waze app to track law enforcement officers, thereby avoiding any future deaths or injury. I am confident your company did not intend the Waze app to be a means to allow those who wish to commit crimes to use the unwitting Waze community as their lookouts for the location of police officers.

There is nothing to link Waze to any deaths or injury, but police are concerned because last month Islamic radical Ismaaiyl Brinsley posted a picture from Waze which showed the police icons. Brinsley disposed of his phone long before he ambushed and murdered two police officers in New York, but the connection is too close for some.

But not all police are buying the anti-Waze argument because, as Sgt. Heather Randol told the San Jose Mercury News, “We want to be seen.”

And that is the point, isn’t it? A visible police presence is part of the purpose of law enforcement and helps keep the peace. Cops aren’t ninjas, and the circumstances in which they need to remain unseen for legitimate public safety reasons are fairly limited. And, no, I don’t consider speed traps “legitimate public safety reasons.”

The police function in various ways: to discourage crime by their visible presence and intervention, to investigate crime after it has been committed, and as an armed revenue collection wing of the government. It’s this last function that rankles the public, because they realize the minor citations and tickets have minimal relevance to public safety and are just there to fill government coffers. When New York police stopped writing these nuisance tickets for a few weeks in protest over the murder of two of their brother officers, the city lost $5 million by some estimates.

The idea that Wave is some kind of Grindr for cop-killers kind of misses the main point: it shouldn’t be hard to find a police officer. They should be visible. Many people feel relieved when they see an officer. Well, at least many white people do: the experience of policing among minority communities is considerably more troubling, particularly for black men. Indeed, looked at from the perspective of a young, innocent black man, Waze may be key tool for avoiding harassment and potential police brutality.

In ordinary practice, the police have few legitimate reasons to conceal their presence. And they have no right at all to tell people they cannot share information with others about that presence any more than they could tell someone not to flash their lights to indicate a speed trap or use a CB radio for the same purpose.

Law enforcement routinely claims that anything happening in public has no expectation of privacy, yet want an exception for their own behavior under some vague and hazy fear about “police stalking.” They’re already deploying licence plate scanners, and are preparing to introduce facial scanners. The gulf between the rights of the watched and those of the watchers is growing ever-wider

Aside from the admittedly horrifying and tragic, but also isolated, case of the New York police murders, is their any indication that “police stalking” is a widespread practice? And if so, is it such a dangerous and immanent threat that it warrants a constitutional challenge about free communication among citizens?

Please Don’t Reply To Stupid Facebook Memes

Let’s try this again.

Everything I asked people not to do in the initial post, they did when the post was shared on social media, which is just so much fail I don’t know where to start.

What is WRONG with you people?! Do you even know how to Facebook!?

What is WRONG with you people?! Do you even know how to Facebook!?

So, I’ve deleted the text of the original post and the picture, and now I’m just telling you:

There are Facebook memes that ask you to combine two things like “What was the name of your childhood pet?” and  “What is your favorite food?” to get your hooker name or porn star name or superhero name or whatever. Then they encourage you to publish it to social media.



Those answers are commonly used for password security questions. The memes are potentially password fishing.

They’re also dumb and offensive.

And here’s something else not to do on Facebook.

Really, you should probably just get off Facebook and read a book-book.

Seriously, don’t make me come over there.

Facebook Offers Something Useful

I didn’t put “for a change” in the headline, but it’s implied.

After a disaster, phone lines can be stressed to breaking by people checking on loved ones.

Now, Facebook offers Safety Check, so people can alert loved ones to how they’re doing following a disaster, and others can check on the status of friends in afflicted areas:

When the tool is activated after a natural disaster and if you’re in the affected area, you’ll receive a Facebook notification asking if you’re safe.hero_phone_1x-screen1-eng

We’ll determine your location by looking at the city you have listed in your profile, your last location if you’ve opted in to the Nearby Friends product, and the city where you are using the internet.

If we get your location wrong, you can mark that you’re outside the affected area.

If you’re safe, you can select “I’m Safe” and a notification and News Feed story will be generated with your update. Your friends can also mark you as safe.

If you have friends in the area of a natural disaster and the tool has been activated, you will receive a notification about those friends that have marked themselves as safe. Clicking on this notification will take you to the Safety Check bookmark that will show you a list of their updates.

If you’re ever in a situation that would require you to use Safety Check, we hope it’s a tool that helps you stay connected to those you care about, and gives you the comfort of knowing your loved ones are safe.

How Social Media Is Messing With Your Brain

The hard thing about social media is to use it without being used by it. I like it just fine to keep in touch with friends, family, and a network on fellow travelers in a variety of interests. It gives me a place to post pictures of my dog, like this:


I apologize to no one for posting pictures of cute animals. It is what teh internets is all about.

Oh stop, you know you love it.

But it’s insidious, as I’ve pointed out before. It can draw us back again and again like the light that lure a moth until it beats itself to death.

We just have to find a way to balance it. I’ve removed all social media apps from my mobile devices and I suggest others do the same. This helps minimize the constant checking when you’re away from the desk and turns your gaze outward, to the world around you.

Look, social media has helped me in my spiritual development. I’m part of a community that shares faith, prays for each other, and looks to deepen our experience of Christ. It’s a good thing, like dessert, alcohol, and sex. But, like all those things, moderation is the key, and understanding how social media works on your brain is a good first step towards making sure you use rather than being used by it.


Tech Addiction:Technology & The Synod on the Family

Alienation: Technology & The Synod on the Family

Facebook Users: Please! Stop! Doing! This!

This is a kind of thought virus used to promote a business or product:

Companies that want you to pay attention to them come up with some dumb meme and then challenge you to disprove it. It is always something insanely easy to disprove, such as “Name a day of the week that ends in ‘Y’. I bet you can’t! ;)”

And everyone dutifully replies “Monday!” “Friday!” “Wednesday!” “That’s easy!”

When you share or even respond in the combox, the post appears on your friends’ stream. Thus, the business that started the thread winds up plastered all over place, providing them with tons of free and annoying advertising. It’s a kind of promotional thought virus spread by people who don’t realize they’re being used.

So, please, just stop it already.

MSNBC’s Hate Unleashes Twitter Storm of Racial Harmony

The interesting part about the fallout from MSNBC’s hateful Cheerios/”right-wing” dustup is that everybody wins.

MSNBC followers win because the network just said what they and their viewers know to be a rock-solid truth, regardless of anything like evidence or logic: conservatives are all racist.

So, when they tweet this in reference to the Cheerios ad featuring a bi-racial family…

… they’re just reaffirming their own and their audience’s bias, because belief in limited government and personal freedom means you automatically hate people who look different than you. (Which party had an Exalted Cyclops of the Klan as a respected elder statesmen and opposed the Civil Rights Act, and which one ended slavery?)

Cheerios wins because you just can’t buy that kind of publicity. Also, the kid’s pretty cute:

And on Twitter, conservatives have turned MSNBC’s kneejerk idiocy to their advantage with the hashtag #MyRightWingBiracialFamily. People from the right are tweeting photos of their multi-racial families using the hashtag, which started with writer Michelle Malkin (the victim of incessant racist and sexist comments from the left for years) and just snowballed.

Predictably, people came back with stupid and hateful messages, such as saying that even if a conservative white person marries a black person, the white person’s still a racist because something something Obama.

Yeah, I don’t get it either, but leftism isn’t grounded in reality in the first place. If Democratic social and economic policies are so wonderful for minorities, why don’t they work? Could it be that their patronizing, paternalistic, infantalizing character is more deeply rooted in racism than the freedom of opportunity, equality under the law, and personal responsibility offered by conservatives?

Predictably, the reaction to the hashtag was enthusiasm from the right, and hatred from the left.

After posting this pic, Cong. Tim Huelskamp was even accused of renting a black family:

See, it’s easy for a modern leftist to identify a racist without ever hearing a word from his lips, or even in the face of photographic evidence: you’re a racist if you don’t agree with the left. Going with this assumption saves an awful lot of effort that might be chewed up by the hard work of thinking for yourself and judging each person as you encounter them: like individuals.

Pope Francis on the Internet as a “Gift from God”

Pope Francis Tweets, old skool.

In anticipation of the 45th World Communication’s Day tomorrow, Pope Francis offers some observations on the centrality of communication in the modern world and the ways in which it can help forge solidarity and bridge gaps, but only if used properly.

In a world like this, media can help us to feel closer to one another, creating a sense of the unity of the human family which can in turn inspire solidarity and serious efforts to ensure a more dignified life for all. Good communication helps us to grow closer, to know one another better, and ultimately, to grow in unity. The walls which divide us can be broken down only if we are prepared to listen and learn from one another. We need to resolve our differences through forms of dialogue which help us grow in understanding and mutual respect. A culture of encounter demands that we be ready not only to give, but also to receive. Media can help us greatly in this, especially nowadays, when the networks of human communication have made unprecedented advances. The internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God.

If good communication helps us to grow closer, then surely bad communication pushes us the further apart. The question is: to which end does the internet trend? Like all who spend a great time in this space–working, playing, learning, and evangelizing–I believe that there’s a downward gravitational pull in modern mass media that favors the lowest forms of communication. Dialog rarely retains a lofty or even civil character before beginning the invenitable slouch towards Godwin.

Francis is aware of this, because in the very next paragraph he makes the following observation:

This is not to say that certain problems do not exist. The speed with which information is communicated exceeds our capacity for reflection and judgement, and this does not make for more balanced and proper forms of self-expression. The variety of opinions being aired can be seen as helpful, but it also enables people to barricade themselves behind sources of information which only confirm their own wishes and ideas, or political and economic interests. The world of communications can help us either to expand our knowledge or to lose our bearings.

These risks, for those of us here and for the Pope, do not meant we leave this space behind, but act with greater deliberation:

What is it, then, that helps us, in the digital environment, to grow in humanity and mutual understanding? We need, for example, to recover a certain sense of deliberateness and calm. This calls for time and the ability to be silent and to listen. We need also to be patient if we want to understand those who are different from us.

His suggestion of how to achieve this draws on the parable of the Good Samaritan, and the notion that the one who sees the neighbor as one like himself is able to act righteously:

Those who communicate, in effect, become neighbours. The Good Samaritan not only draws nearer to the man he finds half dead on the side of the road; he takes responsibility for him. Jesus shifts our understanding: it is not just about seeing the other as someone like myself, but of the ability to make myself like the other. Communication is really about realizing that we are all human beings, children of God. I like seeing this power of communication as “neighbourliness”.

The problem with this analogy is that of the people who passed by the man on the road, two-thirds of them didn’t get this point, and the percentage is at least that high in the digital space. In internet terms, that translates into millions of truly miserable people. Francis observes that the response of the Levite and priest were culturally conditioned, and that modern media works to condition us in a similar way. We see not a neighbor, but either an ally or an other. The point is not to keep the others out, but to draw them in. You can defeat an enemy by crushing him, or you can defeat an enemy by making him a friend.

And as Francis observes, the nature of the media themselves lends itself to abuse, but also to glory:

Whenever communication is primarily aimed at promoting consumption or manipulating others, we are dealing with a form of violent aggression like that suffered by the man in the parable, who was beaten by robbers and left abandoned on the road…. Media strategies do not ensure beauty, goodness and truth in communication. The world of media also has to be concerned with humanity, it too is called to show tenderness. The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people. The impartiality of media is merely an appearance; only those who go out of themselves in their communication can become a true point of reference for others. Personal engagement is the basis of the trustworthiness of a communicator. Christian witness, thanks to the internet, can thereby reach the peripheries of human existence.

He concludes by saying the risk is not just worthwhile, but essential if the gospel is to be proclaimed everywhere in the modern world:

… if a choice has to be made between a bruised Church which goes out to the streets and a Church suffering from self-absorption, I certainly prefer the first. Those “streets” are the world where people live and where they can be reached, both effectively and affectively. The digital highway is one of them, a street teeming with people who are often hurting, men and women looking for salvation or hope. By means of the internet, the Christian message can reach “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8)…

Effective Christian witness is not about bombarding people with religious messages, but about our willingness to be available to others “by patiently and respectfully engaging their questions and their doubts as they advance in their search for the truth and the meaning of human existence” (BENEDICT XVI, Message for the 47th World Communications Day, 2013). We need but recall the story of the disciples on the way to Emmaus. We have to be able to dialogue with the men and women of today, to understand their expectations, doubts and hopes, and to bring them the Gospel, Jesus Christ himself, God incarnate, who died and rose to free us from sin and death. We are challenged to be people of depth, attentive to what is happening around us and spiritually alert.

May the image of the Good Samaritan who tended to the wounds of the injured man by pouring oil and wine over them be our inspiration. Let our communication be a balm which relieves pain and a fine wine which gladdens hearts. May the light we bring to others not be the result of cosmetics or special effects, but rather of our being loving and merciful “neighbours” to those wounded and left on the side of the road. Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world.

There has always been a lot of idealism in papal statements about the internet, and this address is cut from the same cloth. And that’s a good thing. If we keep our eyes fixed on the ideal while navigating a fallen world with the love of God in our hearts and the gospel ever on our lips, we’re being true to the call of Catholicism.

Things That Happen Only On Twitter


Garry Kasparov is a Russian opposition leader and vocal foe of Vladimir Putin, as well as the greatest chess player in the history of the game and thus one of most brilliant minds on the planet. He’s also a fan of the conservative bloggerAce of Spades, and now understands what the word “bro” means.

And then you get this: Joan Walsh, professional public moron and former editor-in-chief of amateur Obama fanzine Salon, mocking one of the most brilliant minds on the planet for a series of American interviews in which he criticizes Obama, Putin, and the entire Syrian mess.

One does not criticize the Dear Leader in front of Joan Walsh:

Er, you might want to run your vapid little comments through Wiki next time, Joan.

And what, exactly, are the credentials of Joan Walsh (or any writer, for that matter) for holding forth on pressing issues of the day? Self-selecting elites don’t like it when people they didn’t invite to the party speak out in ways they find objectionable. When that person’s fame comes from feats of pure intellect, it reveals their own shortcomings, and so Kasparov needs to be redefined as a mere player of games. Back in your place, boy!

I haven’t read Jonathan Franzen’s exercise in omphaloskepsis yet, but I get the impression it’s something-something-TWITTER BAD!-something-something. I’m not much of a Twitterer myself, but I see its uses and have been amazed by the interesting connections and conversations that can take place.

And now it’s taught the leading Russian Putin critic the meaning of the word “bro.” Mission accomplished, Twitter.