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New French law will limit driving app warnings for police checks

The rules target specific types of police checks for crimes such as terrorism and kidnapping, but drivers are concerned they will spread to speed checks

Driver using route-planning app. New French law will limit driving app warnings for police checks

Under the new rules, authorities can order apps to stop letting drivers know where police are doing checks on roads Pic: Dan Gold / Unsplash

A new French law plans to stop route-planning apps from warning drivers of police presence on the roads, in some circumstances.

Currently, apps such as Waze and Coyote are allowed to give details of roads or sections of road where police are present, and how long their presence is expected to last, with information on the apps often submitted by users.

The new rules will give the interior minister and prefects the right to ban apps from sharing such information when police checks relate to issues such as terrorism, kidnappings, roadblocks to aid police chases, alcohol and drugs.

MP Zivka Park, from President Macron's La République en Marche party, said the law would apply in circumstances such as those following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015, when the Kouachi brothers, who carried out the attacks, “escaped the police for some time, thanks to alerts they were receiving through Waze”.  

In such instances, France’s legal website says authorities will be able to initiate a “ban on the diffusion of any messages that signal the presence of police forces on electronic services that help with driving or navigation by geolocation”. 

The rules are expected to come into effect from November 1, 2021. 

Drivers concerned law will target speed control checks

When the law was first discussed in parliament in 2019, Ms Park said: “The idea is that law enforcement can, for limited periods and in specific areas, block messages sent by applications.”

Ms Park said that information about police speed control checks would not be blocked, but drivers’ association la Ligue de défense des conducteurs believes the law will evolve in this direction.

It said of the new law: “Don’t be duped, in the fullness of time we will see a total veto [on information].” 

The association has started an online petition Non à l’interdiction de signaler les contrôles de Vitesse (No to banning alerts for speed control checks), which currently has 325,000 signatures. 

It said: “By letting drivers know where the police speed control checks are taking place, the apps are active participants in making everyone safer by stabilising the flow of traffic at the maximum speed allowed.”

App developers to work with police

The app developers have said they support the law. 

A spokesperson from French app Coyote told BFMTV: “We have always worked with the police on how we share information on our platform. The [new rules] will only concern limited and very precise requests.” 

The law states that the rules banning information sharing can be applied for a maximum of two hours if police checks are related to drugs or alcohol and up to 12 hours for other cases, within perimeter of 2km in urban areas and 10km elsewhere.

A statement from developers of the app Waze added: “Our goal is to guide users towards the safest and fastest routes. We are aware of the new law and will take the necessary measures to apply it.” 

App developers that fail to comply with the new rules face two years in prison and a fine of €30,000. 

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