The Sketchy Criticism of SketchFactor
“There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery — then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.” — Jesse Jackson
The inventors of a new iPhone (and soon on Android) app called SketchFactor think that similar, albeit not necessarily race-based, concerns — such as caring for one’s personal safety — represent a market to be tapped.
Ongoing events in Ferguson, Missouri, make the debate about SketchFactor particularly timely since — although with hugely different levels of importance and emotion — both are causing debates over race relations and racism in the United States.
And so the app uses public data combined with crowdsourced reports of “sketch” — meaning activity in a location that ranges from weird to dangerous, from catcalls to racial profiling, which is then marked on a map — to help users avoid neighborhoods or routes that might offer unwanted encounters.
No doubt that crowdsourced information allows the injection of bias, even racism, into such an application. But there’s a reason why so many of today’s most successful travel and leisure websites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp rely on user contributions to generate content that other users largely trust. It is a proven model, at least if there is a critical mass of participants.
But when they learned of SketchFactor, the left-wing blogosphere went crazy with cries of “racist!”
Please read the rest of my article for the American Spectator here:
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