PhantomALERT App: We aren’t “defying” senators or enabling DUIs [Exclusive]

PhantomALERT App: We aren’t “defying” senators or enabling DUIs [Exclusive]

Yesterday, we published extracts from a press release where PhantomAlert, an app that helps drivers avoid all kinds of potential tickets, boasted that its DUI checkpoints were staying put and that it had “defied” the senators who convinced Apple to ban DUI info.

CEO Joe Scott wrote to us, essentially retracting the whole release, also stating for the record that the company does not condone or encourage drinking and driving.

“First of all, I apologize for the tone of the press release. I just saw it after the fact. I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t authorize it. It was done by an outside agency and I apologize on behalf of all of us at PhantomALERT.

Had I seen it, I would have definitely changed the tone and message. For the record, we are in no way condoning or encouraging drinking and driving. In fact, we praise the senators for tackling such an important issue. We just think they picked on the wrong app and if they knew how PA really worked they would probably endorse us.”

When Apple bowed to pressure from lawmakers changing its guidelines over apps that alert drivers to DUI checkpoints, it was clear something would happen to apps already in the store.

Apple cannot stop applications from using publicly-available information from police and local authorities but some of the apps have opted to comply anyway.  Trapster reportedly pulled the DUI info because they didn’t want to fight Apple over it and DUI Dodger is exhorting people to download before they comply with the new guidelines.

Scott says the whole thing was a big misunderstanding that nearly put him out of business that started with USA Today.

“PhantomALERT was featured on a front page story – which, in addition to red light and speed light camera alerts, highlighted our DUI checkpoint alert.  This DUI checkpoint altering function caught the attention of four Senators…who took it upon themselves to launch a campaign to attack our product…”

I literally had to fight for survival – one press release, one reporter at a time…It was clear we were wrongly accused and now we feel vindicated by Apple, Google, the media and law enforcement.”

In fact, there are  TV news clips about the app where a Virginia police officer says: “We are not against them… part of the actual enforcement “DUI” is the campaign to tell people to stop driving while intoxicated … and we push out information that says where DUI check points will be and an application that tells you is the same thing we already do.”

Scott says the company is now making lemonade out of the media lemons to position PhantomALERT as a “driver safety tool…committed to safety and raising driver awareness.”

One thing is also clear: while the company regrets the statement about “defying” the senators, Scott believes there are larger issues.

“What happened to us is truly an American story. It was a fight for freedom. Freedom of speech, information, communication, assembly and yes also freedom of the press in today’s digital age. The issue is not DUI checkpoints. It is about information and how it is gathered, disseminated and used. We believe public information should be available to everyone – and will fight to defend this right.”

So were the other apps wrong to remove this information or not?

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Nicole MartinelliNicole Martinelli heads up Cult of Mac Magazine, our weekly publication available on iTunes. You can find her on Twitter and Google+. If you're doing something new, cool and Apple-related, email her.

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