SketchFactor, the brainchild of co-founders Allison McGuire and Daniel Herrington, is a Manhattan-based navigation app that crowdsources user experiences along with publicly available data to rate the relative “sketchiness” of certain areas in major cities.
Based on the story, complete with the details of the founders working at non-profits in their early 20s, being intimidated by Washington D.C. neighborhoods, getting this app off the ground with family money and, more than anything, their smiling, lily-white faces, the people behind this app have lived pretty damned privileged lives. It would not surprise me in the least if the impetus for this app was borne of their utter cluelessness about what actually difficult neighborhoods are like, how to know when one encounters them and how to act when one does.
And while I take them at their word that they in no way want this app to turn into a tool of latent racists or, even worse, actual racists, they are deluded in the extreme if they do not think that that is exactly what it will become. I predict a near perfect overlap of their “sketchy” map and a census map showing a geographic racial breakdown. And while, yes, there is a pretty heavy correlation between disadvantaged areas and crime, there is abundant data available on this already and a map of high crime areas could easily be produced. By crowd-sourcing this, these people are asking for their app to become a depository of racial profiling.
Probably doesn’t matter. These two will probably make $20 million off this thing and then become vague consultants of some sort. Since that’s inevitable, we should at least try to fuck the deck a bit here. Everyone: download this app and mark every single neighborhood in which privileged rich white kids congregate as “sketchy.”
Sure, that’s sabotage, but it also has the benefit of being true.
UPDATE: I am not 100% these are the same people, but The Independent says that the founders of SketchFactor are the same people who were behind a similar app called “Ghetto Tracker” last year. That site was straight up vile, and made no effort to hide its racist motivations. If it’s not true, I would hope that the SketchFactor people would have seen the uproar Ghetto Tracker caused and thought better of their endeavor. If it is true and these are the same people merely attempting to offer a sanitized version of Ghetto Tracker, they are not entitled to the benefit of the doubt for which they so desperately ask in the linked article.