White duo behind app to avoid ‘sketchy’ neighborhoods is shocked to hear it’s racist
The developers of a new app which would allow users to identify “sketchy” neighborhoods have denied allegations that their product could lead to racial profiling, Crain’s New York reported.
“We understand that people will see this issue,” said Allison McGuire, who designed the Sketch Factor app with Daniel Herrington. “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.”
The app, which was a semifinalist in New York City’s “NYC BigApps” competition for tech-based products, will be available via iTunes on Friday. The Sketch Factor homepage bills it as a way to navigate cities by foot based on user input.
“By showing the sketchiness of an area, SketchFactor takes the guesswork out of city navigation,” the website states. “What’s sketchy? You can report weird—such as a bizarre discovery or strange encounter—or dangerous—potentially harmful situations—to the app. You can also share protips about what routes you take and why.”
Tech news site Valleywag referred to Sketch Factor as “racist” in a report posted on Thursday, describing the term “sketchy” itself as the word “young white people use to describe places where they don’t feel safe because they watched all five seasons of The Wire.”
The app has also come under criticism on its Facebook page, where one commenter mockingly requested, “Quick somebody make an app to avoid white people.”
But the developers also stated on the app’s homepage that any posts considered “discriminatory” would be removed, and encouraged users to report “incidents, not feelings.”
“Here’s an example: People who look different than you are hanging out in your neighborhood? Doesn’t make it sketchy. Said people are harassing you? Report it,” they wrote. “Living in and visiting a city — any city — can be eye opening for many reasons. Some of those reasons include being exposed to all sorts of people. Before you call something sketchy, note what action is occurring, not just how you feel about it.”
[Image via “Sketch Factor” official Facebook page]