Tech Racism?: App to Avoid Black Neighborhoods Launches Today

A map of DC neighborhoods. (Google Images)

A map of DC neighborhoods. (Google Images)

Writing for ValleyWag, Sam Biddle reports that yet another app to avoid black and brown neighborhoods is launching today.

SketchFactor, an app designed to help people avoid “sketchy” i.e. black neighborhoods clearly has a market since the developers are finalists in a New York City app competition. The app developers came up with the idea after living in and navigating through neighborhoods in Washington, DC, commonly referred to as Chocolate City because of the city’s large black population. Like many major cities, the nation’s capital has recently undergone urban renewal, also known as gentrification, resulting in an influx of affluent whites and the relocation of large groups of blacks, which has changed the demographics of the city significantly.

The developers decided to move to NYC to develop SketchFactor. They contend that this app is not racist or sexist. Biddle takes exception to this statement, pointing out the ways in which SketchFactor is “racist.” He writes:

“Is there any way to keep white people from using computers, before this whole planet is ruined? I ask because the two enterprising white entrepreneurs above just made yetanother app for avoiding non-white areas of your town—and it’s really taking off!”

You may recall that Microsoft came under fire in 2012 for what was referred to as their “avoid the ghetto” feature on their GPS service. also met with intense criticism in 2013 after people learned that the app would allow users to rate neighborhoods as good or “ghetto.” The happy white family in the advertisement helped clarify what was good, similar to the smiling white faces of the founders of the SketchFactor app.

SketchFactor launches on iTunes today.


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