Patt Morrison for January 26, 2012

G-rated GPS: Microsoft’s GPS patent dubbed the “avoid ghetto” app draws ire

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Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Safety or racism? That’s the question when it comes to Microsoft’s newly granted patent for a GPS feature media-dubbed the “avoid ghetto” app. The app, as yet unnamed and not yet available, was created as a way for pedestrians to avoid “traveling through an unsafe neighborhood or being in an open area that is subject to harsh temperatures,” according to its patent. Using crime statistics, weather reports, demographics and maps, the app would guide people instead through lower-crime and presumably less tornado-prone neighborhoods. Critics are howling that the app promotes racism and classism and reinforces stereotypes about minority neighborhoods being crime havens.


Is this GPS feature racist or a fair safety practice?


Sarah E. Chinn, English professor at Hunter College in New York and author of the book “Technology and the Logic of American Racism.”

Rob Enderle, a technology analyst and president of San Jose-based Enderle Group, providing guidance for regional and global companies

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