Two young Americans have been accused of racism after creating an app that rates neighbourhoods on their “sketchiness”.
Sketchfactor, created by New Yorkers Allison McGuire and Daniel Herrington, allows people to navigate Manhattan without wandering into the “sketchy” areas reported by users.
The app is similar to another creation known as GhettoTracker, which received criticism last year for its all-white promotional photos and lack of actual crime data.
According to Gawker, the creator of GhettoTracker quickly renamed it to Good Part of Town and inserted some photos of black or latino families after backlash became too great.
Although Sketchfactor’s official blog asserts that the app is not intended to be racist – “Any discriminatory posts will be deleted” – critics fear that racial stereotyping will result in predominantly black areas being labelled as “sketchy”.
The creators of the app have insisted that this is not their intention.
“We understand that people will see this issue,” Ms McGuire told Crain’s New York. “And even though Dan and I are admittedly both young, white people, the app is not built for us as young, white people. As far as we’re concerned, racial profiling is ‘sketchy’ and we are trying to empower users to report incidents of racism against them and define their own experience of the streets.”
It’s apps like #SketchFactor that make me wish there were no start-ups, no smartphones, and no Internet for that matter. Despicable
— David Perlmutter (@SFGeoNinja) August 7, 2014
— Smitty (@PBSmitty) August 7, 2014