Race Matters: Is Microsoft’s Latest App Helping Women or Racist With “Avoid Ghetto” Feature?

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Race Matters: Is Microsoft's Latest App Helping Women or Racist With "Avoid Ghetto" Feature?

Microsoft has been getting some major criticism for what some people are calling the “avoid ghetto” feature, which would supposedly let Windows Phone users steer clear of bad neighborhoods. On the other hand, some supporters are praising the app because they say it help to keep women safe.

The Microsoft’s GPS will be inserted into Windows Phones in the future will use input from more varied and up-to-date sources in order to create suggested routes.

CNET reports that the “avoid ghetto” function (that questionable term seems to have been invented by CBS Seattle) would combine crime statistics with GPS to suggest safe routes to smartphone users. Writes CNET’s Chris Matyszczyk, “It’s one thing to avoid areas where there might have occurred physical assaults and gunfire. It’s another to avoid, say, places where burglaries are popular, as one suspects quite a few allegedly nice areas are subject to burglars’ desires.” But what about sexual assaults?

Microsoft’s patent doesn’t mention ladies or rape specifically. In fact, what it does say about combining crime stats with GPS is pretty dude-centric: “The generation component 104 can analyze the information and construct a direction set that allows the user to take paths that take him to his home in a quickest amount of time while keeping the user relatively safe (e.g., taking the user through neighborhoods with violent crime statistics below a certain threshold).”

On one level, it makes intuitive sense to avoid neighborhoods with a high level of sex crimes — whenever there’s a rash of assaults in a particular area, women are often told to do just that. And women might find sex crime information useful when planning routes. On the other hand, there are plenty of times when you don’t have much choice in the matter.

But violent crime stats generally do include rape, and odds are that if “avoid ghetto” does make it to market, Microsoft developers are going to have to deal with this issue.

Do you think the new app is helpful against fighting crimes against women or just plain racist?

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