Limiting freedom in‘app’ropriate

Short-sightedness: There’s no app for that. Instead, I present the U.S. Senate.

Four senators, including New Mexico’s Tom Udall, urged smartphone makers last week to stop offering software applications, or “apps,” that let users post DUI/DWI checkpoint locations to online databases.

Remove the apps from your online stores, the senators ask, or alter them to eliminate checkpoint notifications.

“Giving drunk drivers a free tool to evade checkpoints, putting innocent families and children at risk,” the four senators said in a March 23 release, “is a matter of public concern.”

Their efforts, however well-intentioned, are misguided. The senators at least partially understand that, or they’d be legislating and not urging.

First, the efforts solve nothing. Even if phone companies relented — and Blackberry already has — John Doe can still call friends or send them an “FYI” text message when he spots a checkpoint five blocks away. Before that, John Doe used CB radio. Outlaw lighters to combat arson, and arsonists buy matches.

Second, the request is wholly based on negative presumption.

“Law enforcement agents across the country have voiced concerns over these products,” the release said, “with one police captain saying, ‘If people are going to use those, what other purpose are they going to use them for except to drink and drive?’”

I’ve got two answers for Capt. Questionable Existence:

n People like saving time, and choose the quickest “Point A to Point B” route. Note increased traffic on N.M. 467 when work started on U.S. 70 and Prince Street.

If Street Two has three more stop signs than Street One, I avoid it Monday afternoon. But it’s Friday night. Street One is 20-deep on cars. Cops are checking all of them. Hello, Street Two.

If an app gives me that data, I’m downloading it, just like I’d download an app that locates the cheapest gallon of milk or gas. I don’t want to commit crimes; I want to save time and money.

n The release says drunk driving’s dangers are well documented. But the Fourth Amendment was well documented when safe driving was branding the horses that bucked. It, posted below, has precedence:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Checkpoints run counter to that philosophy. Am I swerving or speeding? Pull me over. Is my turn signal out? Pull me over; I might say, “I wasn’t aware. Thank you for your concern.” That’s probable cause. Probable cause isn’t me driving on a street near a bar.

Public safety is certainly a worthwhile endeavor for elected officials. But not at freedom’s expense. Should they persist, there’s an app for that — the ballot box.