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Microsoft Taking Heat for “Avoid Ghetto” GPS App

Avoid Ghetto App

Microsoft Corporation is taking heat for a patent it filed for what is being called the “Avoid Ghetto” GPS App. The app esentially links up with your GPS or Smartphone and when you are approaching an area that, based on crime statistics or racial make-up, is deemed undesirable it gives you directions around it.

Sarah E. Chinn, author of Technology and the Logic of American Racism, told AOL Autos, said of the fine line a technology walks between useful and racist.

“It’s pretty appalling. Of course, an application like this defines crime pretty narrowly, since all crimes happen in all kinds of neighborhoods. I can’t imagine that there aren’t perpetrators of domestic violence, petty and insignificant drug possession, fraud, theft, and rape in every area.”

Chin made an interesting point where she stressed that even though it may give people less of a nervous feeling to not get lost and wind up in a really bad neighborhood, the vast majority of crime is committed by people that know each other so this app would not really improve driver safety.

She did state an interesting idea though that flips the coin a bit:

“A more useful app would be for young black men to be able to map blocks with the highest risks of their being pulled over or stopped on the street by police. That phenomenon affects many more people than the rare occurrences of random violence against motorists driving through ‘bad’ neighborhoods.”

How do you feel about the Microsoft “Avoid Ghetto” App?

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26 Responses to “Microsoft Taking Heat for “Avoid Ghetto” GPS App”

  1. Christy Ormonde Garcia

    I think this is a great app. Why is it a problem that people don't want to drive through drug infested or crime infested areas? Not everything is a race issue. I think it is really sad that Martin Luther King Jr, along with so many others fought for civil rights, and for people to be not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, yet if you judge someone by the content of their character, you are racist.

  2. Judy Dorfner

    I have taken a wrong turn and ended up in a bad area and been terrified. Anyone who has mistakenly taken an off ramp in East St. Louis might concur. People have died (and recently) for making that mistake. So, yeah, I support this app.

  3. Antonio Watson

    It's the indications behind it. By using "crime statistics and racial make-up" to make driving judgments, it's not only characterizing the neighborhood but the people in it as well. This is inherently wrong. I understand the desire to practice personal safety in an unfamiliar location, but they're going about it the incorrect way.

  4. Judy Dorfner

    That's TRUE! Bus stations are NEVER in the good part of town. Skeeeeeery places they are!

  5. Adrienne J Davis

    Out of sheer curiosity, can you quote *anything* of King, from memory, except the 'content of their character' bit? I ask only because people like to invoke that phrase to wrap themselves in a cloak of righteousness but yet they have no idea of anything else that King said. His entire life does boil down to that one phrase.

  6. Christy Ormonde Garcia

    I think most people can quote that particular quote because it rings so true for EVERYONE! Nobody, black, hispanic, asian, or white, wants to be judged simply because their skin is a certain color. Everyone would like to (or should like to) be judged by the kind of person they are and their own actions. While I think the part of this app that is determined by racial makeup is absurd, I think it is equally absurd to fault someone for not wanting to drive through crime infested neighborhoods. Keep in mind that most meth houses are in predominantly white neighborhoods. I think an app that shows crime stats is a great idea. I have a teenager who just started driving and I would feel alot more comfortable if she had access to an app like that.

  7. Corinne Shannon-Pelley

    Hold up, reality check. I appreciate Chin for flipping the tables, suggesting black men could use an app to avoid police harassment. But those same innocent black folk in the ghetto CAN'T AFFORD a smartphone. Here illustrates a new divide, a new ignorance of people who genuinely want to help the disenfranchised, but still don't have a grasp on real life facts, despite their credentials.

  8. Mana Claire

    No grasp on reality because they sleep with their iPads and use their smarthphones as a security blanket… App with good intentions, but essentially further demonstrates (as you said) the ignorance of people…

  9. Jaime Slim Goody Johnson

    White People…guess what…We really don't give a shit about you rolling through the Hood. First of all, if you are white rolling through…we assume you're police and that gives us more of a reason to not fuck with you. Secondly, there ain't some random hood ni**a at every intersection waiting to jack you when you stop at the red light. You are not that damn special…believe me…

  10. Adrienne J Davis

    Christy Ormonde Garcia I realize that people quote that bit a lot. I think it is shallow to distill the man's life and thought down to 'content of our character not the color of our skin' which is, more or less, what most people think of when they bother to think of him at all. The problem with this app or with people thinking this is the best thing since sliced bread isn't that people want to be safe. Rather, it is the fact that it uses as criteria *racial makeup*. If all that happened was that they took crime statistics and used that, no sane person would have a problem with it. The problem is that it takes a non-relevant factor–ethnic or racial makeup–and makes that a criteria for determining if a neighborhood is 'safe'. Since you invoke King, why is it that when it is convenient for your argument to invoke the 'content of our character' but that doesn't, apparently, apply to the people who live in those neighborhoods that will be marked 'unsafe' because there is an over-representation of certain non-white populations? That ultimately is the problem I have with your invocation of King. We should not judge people by the content of their character or should not presume that people *are* being judged by something *other* than character when it is–let's be honest–largely whites singing the praises of an app that, in essence, is designed to put up a red flag and say "warning, scary black people concentrated in these blocks". On the other hand, should a developer decide, in the process of building this app, that the color of the skin of the people living in certain neighborhoods is prima facie evidence that the neighborhood is unsafe–and that is precisely what is at issue here–well at worst it rises to the level of 'absurd' to use your word. But the people who live in 'those neighborhoods' should expect to be judged by the color of their skin. Perhaps in some future life they will be born into a body considered worthy of only being judged by the content of their character.

  11. Robert Run

    Adrienne J Davis can you explain how you are able to know "what most people think of when they bother to think of him at all." That was interesting. I am wondering where you get your information about other people's hearts and minds.. do you have some kind of a gift, or are you being presumptuous and simply projecting onto others what you know about yourself? curious.

    I am in serious doubt about the idea that this app uses race as part of the criteria. It may use crime stats, but I doubt it uses race stats. It sounds like someone wrote that to get attention and to create a problem where none exists.

    As Christy said.. meth losers are mostly white.. and if there are people who are not aware of it due to a lack of interactions, lowlife whites are far worse in terms of meddling with outsiders than lowlife blacks. White people love to harass outsiders and discriminate, steal, take advantage of.. it's WAY worse for outsiders in poor white locations than poor black locations. In poor black locations they pretty much leave strangers alone, whereas poor whites do not.. generally speaking.

  12. Edward Navish

    "vast majority of crime is committed by people that know each other so this app would not really improve driver safety".
    Yes, but it's usually uninvolved bystanders that are caught in the crossfire that end up injured or dead.

    I support this apps use of crime statistics…..but racial makeup is taking it a bit too far……..White people are just as bad shots as Black people.

  13. James Pressley

    I'll use it! I don't know if I'd call a place with higher crime statistics 'ghetto' but statistically speaking, I'd like to not go there. Just like I'd avoid going down a dark alley at night over a lit street. Duh.

  14. Christina Silvio

    I think that this is a good app to have. While I do feel as if they used the worst terminology possible, I think that staying out of bad areas is a good thing. I would not have used the word "ghetto" nor would I have chosen to use the phrase "racial make-up". I think if the app had a better name and a better description, it would not be such a bad thing. Personally, I do not make snap judgements about people on how they look. Instead I make my mind up about them by how they dress, talk, carry themselves, and behave. White, black, asian, mexican, whatever, no matter what, there are good people and there are bad people.

  15. Anton Zuykov

    " This is inherently wrong"
    Dude, did you look at crime statistics in US?

    "Inherently wrong" is when you try to defy the reality or pretend that some part of it doesn't exist. That is wrong.
    Instead of lashing on drugs and such crime as a murder, you are talking about an app and how it is wrong in using statistics that was BY THE WAY gathered of the real world.

    So, you weren't offended by the fact that some people of particular background have been killing themselves and trashing their own neighborhoods, but instead you were offended by the fact that some app states that.


  16. James Mon

    "…but they're going about it the incorrect way." They're just avoiding the ghetto 😀

  17. James Mon

    As a brown immigrant, I've noticed that black people of America basically shame white people into giving them anything because their ancestors ones enslaved the black people, and many white people are too politically correct in order to compensate for the history. Would a white person complain if blacks avoided their neighborhoods? Why are blacks of USA so sensitive, spoiled, and blackmailing, that "avoiding a ghetto" feels insulting and racist to them?

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