Microsoft's Ghetto App: Avoid it or not?
Recently, the software giant Microsoft has applied for a patent for a new app that they have in the works. This app is being designed to help people avoid dangerous areas when driving. While this app is not even out yet, it has already begun to generate a great deal of controversy and has been nicknamed the “Avoid Ghetto App.” The app is expected to be available when the next Windows Phone is released, and it will likely be available for other smartphones and GPS devices in the future.
The potentiality of this app has evoked a positive response from some, while others have reacted rather vehemently towards it. The negative response is being conjured on the basis of racism. The critics believe that Microsoft’s creation of an app that keeps people out of dangerous areas is racist. They believe that the app was designed to keep motorists out of the minority based, impoverished areas that are often referred to as ghettos. However, Microsoft never included the term ghetto in the name of the app.
Microsoft claims to have designed this app for one reason. This app is to be used to increase the safety of people. The app works by factoring in crime rates in neighborhoods. The app would then help create a route that helps drivers avoid these more dangerous neighborhoods, even if it increases the length of the trip.
Sarah Chinn, author of Technology and the Logic of American Racism states that "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." She also goes on to say that Microsoft fails to include white collar crimes in their statistics, so the app is not accurately representing crime.
Yes, there is crime in basically any neighborhood, but it is ludicrous to believe that the crime level is equal across the board. Crime statistics are not something that can be easily manipulated. If five murders and two robberies occur in an area, that is a fact. Microsoft’s app would use these statistics to help avoid neighborhoods such as this. But what about the argument Chinn makes about excluding white collar crimes? Most people would probably not be scared to sit at a stoplight in a neighborhood where people are committing tax-evasion or fraud. These crimes do not fall under the same dangerous categories as violent crimes. That does not make Microsoft’s app racist.
Most people have probably found themselves in a situation when this app would have come in extremely useful. When people are in unfamiliar areas, they often make a wrong turn and end up in an area that they do not feel comfortable. This app would keep people out of those dangerous areas. They wouldn’t have to glance around nervously, check to make sure the doors are locked, and grip the steering wheel more tightly. This app could even potentially lower crime rates in some areas by decreasing the amount of traffic through them. Is this app a horrible, racist idea? No. Is it the best invention ever? No. It’s simply another app for people to use if they want. Like it or not, it will probably be available soon.