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TECH: Microsoft’s ‘Avoid Ghetto’ App Raises Hackles

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CBS SEATTLE: Microsoft has been granted a patent for its “avoid ghetto” feature for GPS devices. A GPS device is used to find shortcuts and avoid traffic, but states that a route can be plotted for pedestrians to avoid an “unsafe neighborhood or being in an open area that is subject to harsh temperatures.” Created for mobile phones, the technology uses the latest crime statistics and weather data and includes them when calculating a route.The patent, written in a combination of tech-speak and legalese, was awarded to Microsoft earlier this week. It also described other uses for the new GPS technology. One section of the patent mentioned that advertisers can use the technology to navigate a user through a newly set up ad campaign. MORE

ATLANTIC: Let’s get one thing straight: Microsoft wasn’t actually stupid enough to call their new GPS feature the “avoid ghetto” app when they applied for a patent. That term was apparently coined by a local Seattle TV station. But it immediately became the name of choice for a smartphone function that mines violent crime stats to help users avoid an “unsafe neighborhood.” The app isn’t on the market yet, but it didn’t take long for the Internet to come down hard on Microsoft. The Root called it “ludicrous.” Jezebel wondered whether it was “dude-centric.” Sarah E. Chinn, author of Technology and Racism, was quoted saying, “A more useful app would be for young black men to be able to map blocks with the highest risks of their being pulled over or stopped on the street by police.” MORE

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