Waze app led Israeli soldiers into harms way

Waze Danger

On February 29, two IDF soldiers accidentally drove into the Qalandiya refugee camp late at night. They were attacked by rioters with firebombs and rocks and their jeep caught on fire, causing them to flee and separate. This sparked a riot which ended with a firefight between Palestinians and IDF troops who came to rescue the two soldiers. At the end of the fight, one Palestinian was dead and others were injured. The soldiers were found and rescued, but the outcome could have been much, much worse. Why would they drive into a dangerous refugee camp? The answer seems to be that they relied too heavily on Waze, the popular navigation app created in Israel.

Waze has released a statement stating that their app “includes a default setting that prevents routes through areas which are marked as dangerous or prohibited for Israelis to drive through” and that the setting was disabled and the driver deviated from the suggested route, ignoring red signs prohibiting Israeli citizens from entering Palestinian-controlled areas. Whoever is at fault, one thing is for sure, there is a definite danger of blindly following an app which may not be aware of all the facts of your current situation.

Anderson Mccutcheon pointed out to the Times of Israel that technology is very often not cognizant of the social situation it is being used in. The Qalandiya case was not the first time Waze had lead drivers into a dangerous situation. In October, 2015, a woman was shot and killed after Waze led her and her husband into a dangerous slum in Brazil. In that case, it was an instance when the user mistakenly entered the wrong address.

Many say that navigation apps should have more warnings about dangerous areas since people rely so heavily on these apps. Navigation apps should definitely address these concerns, but we as users should also be more aware. Relying too heavily on apps which only know so much can be dangers, as evidenced by the above two cases. We as users must unlearn the potentially harmful behavior of blindly relying on whatever technology has us do. As Mccutcheon pointed out, an area may be perfectly safe for a Palestinian and extremely dangerous for an Israeli and the app may not be able to tell the difference. We have to learn to double check the information provided by the technology we use everyday.

Bryan Seely, a cyber-security expert and former US Marine, told the Times of Israel the when it comes to military units, they should definitely NOT be relying on civilian technology, which can be monitored and potentially tracked. Waze and other crowdsourced apps may not be so safe as they can be manipulated. It also is not nearly a perfect system. Sometimes it will do a great job and find a shortcut. Other times it will do something insane like tell you to cross multiple lanes of rush hour traffic. Seely has stopped using the app.

Our reliance on technology can be useful sometimes, but we need to approach it with a certain amount of caution. It is not all-knowing and may miss important information, such as the fact that a person needs to be alerted that they're entering an area which may be dangerous for them. The military should certainly be even more careful than the standard civilian. The situation that happened in Qalandiya was a massive mistake and should have never happened. However, we have settled into doing whatever our app tells us to do. That needs to change to make our world a safer and more aware place.