Drivers slam ‘secret police’ app that turns phones into speed trap tool

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Public app that allows users to report others to authorities, versus spying by motorists of the Cold War era

A new app that claims to turn smartphones into mobile speed traps has been criticized by motorists, who have described it as something from East Germany’s Cold War era.

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Speedcam Anywhere’s developers claim they have to hide their identities after receiving malicious reactions from users since the app’s launch in March.

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The developers hope the app, which uses a phone’s camera to estimate the speed of passing vehicles, will help improve road safety by highlighting speeding hotspots. However, because it relies on members of the public to record and report other drivers, they have been accused of inciting road users against each other.

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Several online reviews have even compared the idea behind the app to the tactics of the Stasti – the feared secret police of communist East Germany, who encouraged citizens to inform each other.

The app’s developers say they want to help authorities identify speeding hotspots

The app’s makers say they have no “vendetta” against anyone, but instead want road users to obey the law.

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Its founder said the Guardian: “It’s a Marmite product – some people think it’s a good idea, some people think it turns us into a surveillance state.

“I can see both sides but I think if you have speed limits then it’s the law that you obey them and you should enforce the law.

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“It’s not a personal vendetta against anyone, it’s just — how do we make our streets safe? There are 20,000 serious road traffic injuries every year – how can we reduce them? And the way we reduce them is that we have a deterrent effect.”

While some online reviews welcomed the idea behind the app, others accused its developers of supporting a “totalitarian” state and suggested its use could lead to confrontations between drivers and users.

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One review captioned the app “Stasi-cam Anywhere” and said, “Use it to mediate vendettas or get back at the neighbor who always takes your parking spot.”

Another said: “In East Germany, citizens were encouraged to report their neighbors to the Stasi for even the smallest social infractions. “Congratulations” on creating a modern version of this. If you couldn’t tell, I’m being sarcastic. This app disgusts me.”

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The app claims to use artificial intelligence to determine a vehicle’s speed. Users register a vehicle on their phone through the app and then use the registration number to access make and model data from the DVLA. It uses this to determine the vehicle’s wheelbase and estimate a speed based on the footage, comparing it to local speed limits based on GPS data.

Users have to pay for “credits” in order to then be able to process the footage and share it with authorities.

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However, the footage cannot be used to issue speeding tickets or track drivers as the app’s technology has not been approved by the Home Office and therefore cannot be used as evidence by the police or courts.

Online reviews have accused the app’s developers of simply trying to monetize users, and also criticized its accuracy and ease of use.

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When the app was first launched, Google refused to allow it on the Play Store due to questions about its functionality. However, the developers were able to convince the search giant that the app works as advertised. However, Apple still refuses to list the iOS version of the app in its App Store.

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