Google's Waze faces lawsuit over alleged database theft

Waze, the navigation app that Google bought and cops hate, is facing a lawsuit for allegedly copying a proprietary navigation database. The lawsuit is being brought by San Francisco law firm Kronenberger Rosenfeld, LLP, and was filed on behalf of PhantomALERT, Inc., which is described as a "GPS navigation technology company." Waze was acquired by Google, but before that happened, according to the lawsuit, it copied PhantomALERT's database without authorization. This data was then reportedly used in Waze's own Android and iPhone apps.

According to the lawsuit, PhantomALERT has spent more than seven years curating a database that includes a "systematic process" designed to identify nearby law enforcement officers, road conditions (hazards and traffic) and points of interest. Waze's CEO reportedly approached PhantomALERT in 2010 regarding a deal in which the two companies would share database information.

PhantomALERT states it declined the offer, partly because Waze hadn't yet developed "a substantial database" of its own. This, according to the lawsuit, lead to Waze "repeatedly [copying] its Points of Interest database"; the copied information is said to still be in use by Google.

Map makers of old would determine if their maps had been stolen by inserting small fictitious cities and roads. PhantomALERT is said to have done something similar, identifying Waze's alleged copying by locating fake points of interest that had been inserted into its database – the same database that is reportedly being used in Google's navigation app.

Said PhantomALERT's CEO Joseph Scott Seyoum in a statement:

The financial and reputational damages we have incurred from having our unique and carefully built database stolen are staggering. While we cannot undo the past, we can ensure that those who took our intellectual property no longer profit from it at our expense ... I started PhantomALERT seven years ago as an entrepreneur with a dream, and now that dream has been crushed by companies that are profiting from the years of blood, sweat and tears our team put into our product.

Google acquired Waze for $1 billion.