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Cop car-tracking iPhone app is proven to be a myth

Editor’s Note: PoliceOne efforts to contact the author of the blog post below, which appeared in full on the Web site of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, have thus far been unsuccessful. We will continue to look for additional answers on this matter, but at present we can suffice it to say that early reports about this technology were inaccurate. Using an iPhone application called “Trapster” individual users can “tag” locations at which they believe they’ve seen a speed trap, creating a fixed location in the company’s database. Other users equipped with GPS-enabled iPhones who subsequently approach that map location are then given an audio alert. “Danger, Will Robinson! Speed trap ahead!” Okay that’s probably not exactly true, but you get the idea. When Trapster launched back in April 2008, one blogger accurately described the offering as a “social network that pinpoints speed traps and red-light cameras.”

The notion that someone can use this application to watch the movements of a police squad car — think of it as some sort of “Lo-Jack that monitors cops” — is science fiction. That said, if you give enough time, money, and motivation to a clever wireless application developer, who knows what the future may hold...




Cops around the country received a distressing alert last month, a warning that suggested the notion of police surveillance had been turned on its cap.

A deputy sheriff in Monroe County, N.Y., had discovered that by downloading a free application, users of smart phones could track the precise movements of all police cars by tapping into their GPS units. The implications were immense -- think of a robbery crew or a drug dealer keeping tabs on their city's finest.

If only it were true. Cpl. John Helfer, a spokesman for the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, said the deputy who prompted the alert misunderstood an application called Trapster.

"The incident that was described is not what it seemed," Helfer said. In fact, as you'll discover by the end of this post, it wasn't at all what it seemed.

Read full blog post: No, iPhones can't track cop cars

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