RIM says it will pull drunken-driving apps

U.S. senators' letter to Apple, Google, and RIM to remove mobile apps that pinpoint drunken-driving checkpoints has been answered by RIM, which plans to yank such apps from its marketplace.

Following yesterday's letter from four U.S. senators that asked Apple, Google, and Research In Motion to remove applications that could help drunken drivers evade police checkpoints and other law enforcement efforts, RIM has agreed to the request, saying such applications will soon be removed from its BlackBerry App World.

"RIM's decision to remove these apps from their online store proves that when it comes to drunk driving, there should not be an app for that," Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement this morning.

Schumer had been joined in the effort by fellow Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

The group didn't name specific apps in its letter, which was addressed to Google CEO Eric Schmidt; Scott Forstall, Apple's senior VP of iPhone software; and James L. Balsillie and Michael Lazaridis, co-CEOs of RIM. It did, however, cite an application with a database of DUI (driving under the influence) checkpoints, and one that crowdsourced finding those same checkpoints and sharing them with a user base of "more than 10 million."

Each of the three mobile-application marketplaces has its own set of rules and guidelines. Apple formally introduced its guidelines in September, following criticism that its approval process did not clearly spell out what application makers were and were not allowed to include, short of the code itself. RIM's rules are viewable here, and they prohibit anything "that is illegal (e.g., against any criminal, civil, or statutory law or regulation)." As for Google, its Android Market policies take a similar stance to RIM's, putting the kibosh on apps that engage in the "promotion of dangerous and illegal activities." Google denies such apps and can also terminate the creator's publishing account.

A Google spokesperson told CNET that it would remove apps that violate its Android content policies, but that the note from the senators had not named specific applications. However based on the description of functionality alone, the company said that the apps do not appear to violate those policies.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the original letter.

According to the announcement by Schumer's office, the apps in question--which remain unnamed--will be removed by RIM within the next day or so. What's unclear is if the application developers have been given a heads-up or a chance to remove features prior to any action. CNET has not yet heard back from RIM about whether that's the case.

Updated at 2:34 p.m. with comment from Google.

 

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