Angry LA residents are trying to sabotage Waze data to stop side-street congestion

By Michael Carney , written on November 17, 2014

From The News Desk

We’ve grown accustomed to clashes between consumers and technology companies. But usually these dust ups have to do with issues of privacy or entitlement. Today, in Los Angeles, the hot button issue is traffic.

As TMZ first reported, with a growing number of LA residents turning to the Google-owned social mapping and navigation app Waze in an attempt to avoid the notoriously bad LA traffic, local surface streets and residential neighborhoods are seeing a dramatic up-shoot in through traffic. The result, according to many residents, is added difficulty getting to and from their own homes and a less safe environment for kids. (Pro tip: Always reference the kids in any protest).’s Kenny Morse told CBS LA, “Anything that makes our commute easier is a good thing but if you happen to be on one of those shortcut streets that Waze has just put you onto, the residents have a way of fighting back.”

Understandably frustrated, many such LA residents are looking for solutions beyond simply shaking an angry fist at the latest mobile app craze. The plan coming out of many neighborhood meetings is to use the very same crowdsourcing premise on which Waze ‘s social traffic data is based to sabotage the app and restore balance to LA’s streets.

TMZ writes:

So the neighborhood meetings are all about torpedoing the Waze App, and they think they found a waze.

Here's the plan ... since Waze is based on crowdsourcing, residents are uniting to report congestion in their area so cars are rerouted to other streets.

It's starting to catch on ... with the possible end game that motorists will go back to where they came from ... the 405. It sounds far fetched, and it may ultimately prove ineffective, but there’s some precedent for this type of data sabotage against Waze. Earlier this year, a team of Israeli computer science grad students at Technion determined that they could use a similar approach, albeit fortified with some savvy hacks to create thousands of fake Waze accounts and GPS signals, to confuse Waze’s algorithms and manipulate the routing recommendations delivered to other users.

The problem, for angry LA residents are two-fold. First, presumably, there aren’t many computer science PhDs in the bunch and thus there will be a serious lack of algorithms with which to supplement any manual data entry efforts. Secondly, the Technion group alerted Waze to its hack and helped the company patch the associated vulnerabilities to prevent a repeat occurrence.

Residents of tony neighborhoods like Santa Monica, Brentwood, and Beverly Hills have every right to dislike the increase in traffic on their streets. And if traffic laws like speed limits are being broken, then their best recourse might be an appeal to local law enforcement. But it’s unlikely that any efforts to trick Waze into routing traffic elsewhere will have much of an effect.

Waze seems to have confirmed as much, with company spokesperson Julia Mossler telling CBS, “Fake, coordinated traffic reports can’t come to fruition because they’ll be negated by the next 50 people that drive down the street passively using Waze.”