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Could Technology Create Modern-Day 'Leper Colonies'?

timothy posted about a year ago | from the so-what-things-can-we-conflate-today-for-you-sir? dept.

Crime 452

theodp writes "Back in the day, leprosy patients were stigmatized and shunned, quarantined from society in Leper Colonies. Those days may be long gone, but are our mapping, GPS, and social media technologies in effect helping to create modern-day 'Leper Colonies'? The recently-shuttered GhettoTracker.com (born again as Good Part of Town) generated cries of racism by inviting users to rate neighborhoods based on 'which parts of town are safe and which ones are ghetto, or unsafe'. Calling enough already with the avoid-the-ghetto apps, The Atlantic Cities' Emily Badger writes, "this idea toes a touchy line between a utilitarian application of open data and a sly wink toward people who just want to steer clear of 'those kinds of neighborhoods.'" The USPTO has already awarded avoid-crime-ridden-neighborhoods-like-the-plague patents to tech giants Microsoft, IBM, and Google. So, when it comes to navigational apps, where's the line between utility and racism? 'As mobile devices get smarter and more ubiquitous,' writes Svati Kirsten Narula, 'it is tempting to let technology make more and more decisions for us. But doing so will require us to sacrifice one of our favorite assumptions: that these tools are inherently logical and neutral...the motivations driving the algorithms may not match the motivations of those algorithms' users.' Indeed, the Google patent for Storing and Providing Routes proposes to 'remove streets from recommended directions if uploaded route information indicates that travelers seem to avoid the street.' Even faster routes that 'traverse one or more high crime areas,' Google reasons, 'may be less appealing to most travelers'."

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452 comments

no ghettos pre-internet? (5, Insightful)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#44784681)

i've lived in NYC since the early 80's and if you were white you were dumb to go to the south bronx or harlem. especially at night. if your kid passes the gifted and talented test to get into accelerated kindergarten, the crappy schools will have spots open in their G&T classes because parents don't want their kids going there

Re:no ghettos pre-internet? (2, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#44784755)

i've lived in NYC since the early 80's and if you were white you were dumb to go to the south bronx or harlem. especially at night.

I would like to point out that in any place that is poverty-stricken, not blending in is a big problem. A black guy wandering around a trailer park will attract just as much trouble from the people that live there. Race by itself isn't what causes this, it's the larger issue of tribalism. For example, if you're wearing a hoodie and carrying a bag of skittles and wandering through a gated community... you're also in it in a bad way. People need to be aware of their surroundings and know when they're not 'part of the herd'. Standing out in a crowd attracts attention... usually of the unwanted variety.

if your kid passes the gifted and talented test to get into accelerated kindergarten, the crappy schools will have spots open in their G&T classes because parents don't want their kids going there

Red shirting and a whole lot of other issues make 'gifted and talented' a crap shoot based more on being in the right place and the right time than actually being gifted or talented. People who truly are gifted and talented find public and private education to be a hell hole because it's a one-size-fits-all approach, with a focus on test results and rote memorization over critical thinking, independent thought, and creativity. I can pretty reliably figure out your general intelligence level by asking how bored you were in school, and if you had any friends. If you were very bored and had no friends before college... chances are good you were well above average. Your grades are totally irrelevant in this analysis... I never ask people how good they did in school... I asked what the experience of school was like. It's a much more reliable indicator.

Re:no ghettos pre-internet? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784861)

For example, if you're wearing a hoodie and carrying a bag of skittles and wandering through a gated community... you're also in it in a bad way.

Don't forget the part about beating some guy's head into the pavement without checking to see if that guy was in a position to defend himself.

Re:no ghettos pre-internet? (0)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year ago | (#44784871)

People who truly are gifted and talented find public and private education to be a hell hole, or so I've been told.

FTFY.

I never ask people how good they did in school... I asked what the experience of school was like. It's a much more reliable indicator.

With 7 billion people on the planet it's almost a certainty that somebody cares about your judgment.

Re:no ghettos pre-internet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785137)

girlintraining is correct, no matter what you think or say. Being a "truly gifted and talented" myself I know first-hand how it happens. And this is not a case of "my case differing from other cases" -- this happens universally because it's caused by the results of really basic principles. It's just how the brain works.

Re:no ghettos pre-internet? (4, Insightful)

kbg (241421) | about a year ago | (#44785229)

I have never understood how some areas can be so high crime that a white person walking late at night is 100% sure to get in trouble and the police can't do anything about it. The police can just have a white undercover agent walk at night and have a team stand by to arrest those that make trouble, rinse repeat until problem goes away. Perhaps I just don't understand the problem because I have never lived in a country with high crime.

Re:no ghettos pre-internet? (4, Insightful)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year ago | (#44785247)

That would be admitting that there's a problem, which seems to frequently be interpreted as racism. People need to get over the race thing and realize that there is a problem, but it's cultural rather than racial. Cultures can change, but people have to want to change them.

Re:no ghettos pre-internet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785253)

Why would you think the problem would go away?

Are ghettos really that bad? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784685)

Ghettos are frequently the only place housing is actually affordable.

Re:Are ghettos really that bad? (1)

Dutchmaan (442553) | about a year ago | (#44784707)

"Affordable" is a subjective term.

Re:Are ghettos really that bad? (3, Insightful)

Entropius (188861) | about a year ago | (#44784859)

In many places, ghettos are where housing is no less expensive -- it's just paid for by someone else.

Re:Are ghettos really that bad? (3, Informative)

canadian_right (410687) | about a year ago | (#44785205)

I live in Vancouver BC, one of the most expensive places to own or rent a home in North America, and we have social housing. Social housing is affordable because it is on government land and the government can ignore market forces and just charge a rate that reflects the actual cost of building the homes, not the grossly inflated free market costs.

The free market isn't always reasonable. [thethirtiesgrind.com]

Re:Are ghettos really that bad? (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#44785065)

Instead you pay in stolen cars and other items. I've never gotten why criminals steal from their own neighbors, who are also poor. Too lazy to go to better neighborhood? Just opportunistic and bad at weighing risk/benefit?

Re:Are ghettos really that bad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785147)

You don't even have to steal. I've made quite a bit of money just trolling through the rich neighborhoods and salvaging perfectly good computers that they throw away when they get a new model. Of course this was years ago, so maybe things have changed with our more disposable society.

Re:Are ghettos really that bad? (5, Insightful)

Miamicanes (730264) | about a year ago | (#44785071)

The worst thing about living anywhere near a "bad" neighborhood are the endless car break-ins that the authorities can't do jack shit to stop. The Coconut Grove area of Miami, and the adjacent neighborhoods in Coral Gables (where I used to live) are a perfect example. Thanks to both explosive gentrification and the enduring legacy of old-south segregation-era zoning laws, there are plenty of areas where you literally have expensive homes back to back with housing projects that will never go away.

In those areas, you can never have guests come over to see you unless they park elsewhere and take a cab, because YOUR BUILDING's parking garage might have 2 layers of gates & security, but for obvious logistical reasons, the guest parking sits unprotected out in the open. Let me tell you... the only thing that sucks worse than getting your own parked car broken into is having friends come to see you, and getting THEIR OWN car broken into. Or god forbid, your parents' car. If your parents' car gets broken into, you will NEVER be allowed to forget about it. My parents STILL bring it up at least two or three times at family gatherings on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Fourth of July, and it happened more than a DECADE ago.

Ask anybody who lives in an urban neighborhood what their #1 neurotic fear is, and they'll tell you -- "Friends coming to visit, and getting their car broken into". On the hierarchy of social shame, it pretty much tops the list. From that point forward, you no longer live in a nice, safe, gentrified urban neighborhood. As far as your friends and family are concerned, you live in the 'hood.

Re:Are ghettos really that bad? (4, Insightful)

canadian_right (410687) | about a year ago | (#44785225)

Stop leaving valuables in your car and it cuts down on break ins a lot. In bad areas I leave my car unlocked, open the glove box and spill the contents onto the car floor. It looks like it has already been robbed.

We had a terrible problem with car theft. What the police did is set up bait cars. These cars have video to gather evidence, gps, and remote controls to lock and stop the car. The bait car program in Vancouver BC reduced car theft 70% over 5 years..

Real policing can be effective.

Re:Are ghettos really that bad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785289)

It doesn't matter if there are valuables in the car or not. I know of plenty of examples in Buffalo NY where I went to college where cars were smashed into with simply the intent to search for valuables, whether or not any were visible from looking through the window. I'm sure this happens in many other places as well.

Theodp saying 'back in the day' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784691)

Least convincing ever.

Huh? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784695)

So how is this actually racism again?

In other news, companies simultaneously invent app than can predict areas of low income!

This is pure human nature. We try to isolate ourselves from anything that could negatively impact our standard of living, thereby reinforcing the things
that could cause it in the first place.

Re:Huh? (4, Insightful)

Spiked_Three (626260) | about a year ago | (#44784921)

Yeah, that's what I was thinking.

It only racist when someone assumes there is a race factor associated with being a ghetto.

I've lived in Washington DC, and East Tennessee, Seattle - I've seen ghettos composed of every race there is.

So what does being a ghetto have to do with being racist?

Re:Huh? (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#44785203)

The people most likely to use this app are also those most nervous about crime, real and _imagined_.

If I was running it, I'd install user categorization. Classify the uses taste in neighborhoods and only report data from similar users, perhaps based on home zip code and local demographics. No benefit in cross reporting hipsters and suburban nervous mothers. They will both hate the others neighborhood.

I picked my neighborhood in large part because the lots are very large, no HOA and my neighbors like to shoot at street signs. Hard to find in California. It's changed over the years. No more holes in the street signs. Those kids moved out/grew up.

As it is, the data will be biased towards the nervous mother demo.

If all the neighborhoods where green people live.. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784705)

have a higher crime rate and higher risk of $badthing, am I being racist against green people? I don't think so. Maybe when I'm in the good side of town, I see a green person and I greet them normally. I don't hate green people, I just am going to stay out of the part of town where most of them live because I don't want to risk $badthings happening.

Now, if I hate all green people and think they're a lower form of life because of $badthings that happen, then yes I'm being racist. But the distinction between the two cannot be legislated or governed.

Re:If all the neighborhoods where green people liv (4, Interesting)

khasim (1285) | about a year ago | (#44785087)

If all the neighborhoods where green people live.. have a higher crime rate and higher risk of $badthing, am I being racist against green people? I don't think so.

The first point is that racists seldom believe that they're being racist. Because that would be irrational and they all have very rational (to them) reasons for believing whatever they believe.

The second point is that you would be basing your opinion upon a visual characteristic when the real reason might be something you cannot see. Such as economics. Bad neighborhoods have low property values. So poor people live in bad neighborhoods. Not because they're bad people but because that is what they can afford.

Maybe when I'm in the good side of town, I see a green person and I greet them normally.

Maybe. But if you're aware that you're greeting him "normally" then you're probably a racist.

When I see an old Chinese woman walking her poodle on the street I treat her the same as I would any other person who was not ...
Old?
Chinese?
Female?
Poodle-orientated?

Definitely a Fine Line (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | about a year ago | (#44784713)

There is definitely a fine line between utility and racism in this case. How does one overcome cries of racism while still maintaining accurate data? One could of course discount race from the algorithms but I imagine having a user rate a neighborhood as 'safe' or 'not safe' or even 'dangerous' does from a technical point. Of course, the wetware inserting the rating could be using race as a reason for the rating.

get crime data and screw the race baiters (4, Insightful)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44784813)

High crime is high crime. The areas are what they are. Fuck Jesse Jackson. He's one of the reasons that areas with high black population tend to also have high crime rates.

(This statement has been approved by both my wife and me, who are caramel colored and slightly tan.)

Re:get crime data and screw the race baiters (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785035)

(This statement has been approved by both my wife and me, who are caramel colored and slightly tan.)

This is entertaining. In the rest of the world, black people are 'Nigerians' or 'Ghanians' or 'Moroccans'. Brown(ish) people are 'Spanish' or 'Italians' or 'Egyptians'. Asian people are 'Chinese' or 'Japanese' or whatever.

The concept that the colour of your skin alone should be in some way an identifier appears to be an American and occasionally English phenomenon. I'd tend towards the latter being the source of this stupidity since the only white people singled out for similar treatment were the Irish, and we all know the English don't like them very much, never accepting the yoke of empire, the curs. And even after assimilation in the US they aren't Americans, they are Asian Americans or African Americans. Or even, bizarrely, Irish Americans. Where are the German Americans or the French Americans?

It's no wonder you complete fucking potbellied morons have ghettos in the first place since nobody can escape the colour of their skin, despite their cultural background being far more important, and the only way you barely sentient tits are able to classify people culturally is by the colour of their skin.

Re:get crime data and screw the race baiters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785155)

Also more of a cultural thing than just being black. I've noticed a lot of recent immigrants from Africa who are black seem to prefer the living near the Asian parts of town of all areas. (They look the same as any other black person. But if you converse for a bit the accent and attitude are often quite different.) And they don't seem to cause any problems either. They avoid the more established "African American" parts of town with high crime rates just like anyone else.

So yes, it's very much a culture thing. It just happens to be strongly correlated with race, but it's not always the case.

Re:get crime data and screw the race baiters (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#44785227)

Is this app reporting 'high crime' or 'area makes me uncomfortable'?

I thought crime rate was already publicly available. Admittedly this data is gamed by all the local cops, trying to make their area's look safe. But assuming they are all cheating, you can squint at it, say apples to apples and only look at one, perhaps two, significant digits worth of data.

Re:Definitely a Fine Line (2)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year ago | (#44785023)

There is definitely a fine line between utility and racism in this case. How does one overcome cries of racism while still maintaining accurate data? One could of course discount race from the algorithms but I imagine having a user rate a neighborhood as 'safe' or 'not safe' or even 'dangerous' does from a technical point. Of course, the wetware inserting the rating could be using race as a reason for the rating.

There's no fine line; it's a Venn diagram, with significantly overlapping areas. If you're doing anything that involves social profiling, you're not going to avoid cries of racism, as even in this day and age, racial background is a strong indicator of social grouping. Just yesterday the article came out mentioning that people tend to become friends with people who have similar DNA. Race is nothing more than a combination of history and a few chromosomes; it'd be silly to think that sometimes, that might be the similar DNA that causes social clustering (just like sometimes it's other structures).

This said, the whole idea of "safe/dangerous" neighbourhoods is often very subjective, as others have pointed out. Whether you're safe depends more on whether you stand out and whether you understand the local dangers than anything else. Take someone from Orlando and drop them in the middle of Seward, and it's not going to be a very safe place for them. Drop someone from Seward in the middle of Orlando, you'll have similar issues.

So I don't think the article's premise actually holds much water -- we aren't clustering "unclean" people together; people just socialize with people who are like them in some way -- even if that way is only income.

A better method of finding desirable routes might be via social network -- "x proportion of people in this area are within 3 degrees of separation from you on Facebook. Proceed?"

Safety takes Precedence over Ethnic concerns (5, Insightful)

BoRegardless (721219) | about a year ago | (#44784717)

There are rough neighborhoods and bars in white neighborhoods that I would not expect women to go near at night in good cities.

Facts are facts.

Re:Safety takes Precedence over Ethnic concerns (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784951)

I'll play the race/stereotype card:

That's a myth, there's no such thing of "rough neighborhoods and bars in white neighborhoods". I don't what you Chicago, Southie, SeaTac folks say. Just go to a minority neighborhood depressed by the people, corporations and the gov't (cause admit it, folks of a certain color always have mor access, even if their poor) and you'll see rough.

Mind that it's nothing like a 3rd world country in the southern hemisphere.

And what the hell does (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784721)

race have to do with crime-ridden neighborhoods?

What the fuck /. ? Your summary is more racist than the technology you're referring to. Well done.

Re:And what the hell does (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784855)

Hilarious. Absolutely hilarious. What does race have to do with crime-ridden neighbourhoods? EVERYTHING, as you must obviously know, unless you've been living under a rock for the past fifty years. You idiot. Do you seriously think most white people are going to just carry on watching our countries being destroyed by third world parasites? If they're so wonderful, why are they here? Why aren't they making their OWN countries better? Because they're NOT wonderful, because they're parasites, because they've come to steal OUR countries from us, like the losers they are.
Did I mention that you were an idiot?

Blacks:
13% of the population
85% of the crime rate
64% of the prison population
Blacks.

Re: And what the hell does (-1, Troll)

casings (257363) | about a year ago | (#44784875)

Kill yourself, you fucking anonymous faggot.

Re: And what the hell does (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784893)

Die in a fire, you homophobic kike.

Re: And what the hell does (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#44785239)

AC #1 could light casings on fire to kill himself with CO poisoning. If they invite AC #2 everybody is happy.

Re:And what the hell does (2)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year ago | (#44785085)

Hilarious. Absolutely hilarious. What does race have to do with crime-ridden neighbourhoods? EVERYTHING, as you must obviously know, unless you've been living under a rock for the past fifty years. You idiot. Do you seriously think most white people are going to just carry on watching our countries being destroyed by third world parasites? If they're so wonderful, why are they here? Why aren't they making their OWN countries better? Because they're NOT wonderful, because they're parasites, because they've come to steal OUR countries from us, like the losers they are.
Did I mention that you were an idiot?

Blacks:
13% of the population
85% of the crime rate
64% of the prison population
Blacks.

This got modded insightful?

Did someone forget their history about how Europeans (multiple "races") and Africans (multiple "races") arrived in North America, and what happened to the people that arrived because they were nomadic, not because they wanted to exploit the land and get something for free? How about Rwanda, the one country in modern history that had races created arbitrarily?

The first line is partially right -- we can't separate race (which I interpret to be a combination of a person's genetic tree combined with social background and ancestral home) from crime rates, mostly because crime itself depends on social interactions, which depends on a host of other things. While race isn't responsible for crime, the combined social and legal systems do play a large role in creating racial ghettos. As do people who see race as a major player in the weakening of power of their own "race".

Why Negative? (1)

Ed The Meek (3026569) | about a year ago | (#44784723)

Could use the same information to improve places.

"Microsoft Patents Bad Neighborhood Detection" (1)

horm (2802801) | about a year ago | (#44784729)

Pretty sure we already had this discussion here [slashdot.org] .

I'm not sorry. (5, Insightful)

Xenkar (580240) | about a year ago | (#44784731)

I value my safety over the feelings of others. Label it however you want, it is better than ending up dead, brain dead, maimed for life, or having my eye sockets reconstructed with titanium plates.

Re:I'm not sorry. (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | about a year ago | (#44784759)

I don't know, if the titanium plates were mounts for a multi-optic cybernetic implant (and a laser), I might go for that.

Re: I'm not sorry. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784867)

"Multi optic"? Like bug eyes, with multi faceted lenses? Because that could be pretty damn cool, if a little weird/creepy. But what the hell would the laser be for? LIDAR, generic illumination? Sorry, you're not going to get weaponized energy weapons to work on a meat-based platform without an additional power supply.

PC at its best (5, Insightful)

MPAB (1074440) | about a year ago | (#44784737)

I once asked in several forums about the neighborhoods of a city I was going to move into with my family. I didn't want to fall into bohemian neighborhoods (want rest at night, not party) or ghettos just because I didn't know the place. The answers were all about racism, how beautiful and diverse those places were, how much of a lousy father I was for denying my children such enriching experiences, etc.
I resorted to look around for external signs, such as crowded balconies, abandoned cars, how people dressed, etc.

I think I have the same right to be informed when I look for somewhere to live than when shopping around for stuff that suits my needs as precisely as possible.

Re:PC at its best (5, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#44784761)

The answers were all about racism, how beautiful and diverse those places were

To get a real answer from those people, ask them what area of town they live in as it will usually be quite nice compared to where they are directing you to.

Re:PC at its best (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#44785069)

Would be useful if you could get an honest answer. Those people lie like rugs.

Re:PC at its best (3, Insightful)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about a year ago | (#44785245)

Generally true, but not always. Young, single, childless bohemian types sometimes do, in fact, choose to live lower rent neighborhoods and disdain those who do not do likewise. Priorities tend to change once one settles down, marries, has kids, and actually wants to own a little property.

Lesson: don't take advice about where to live from those who've less to lose than you.

Real racism is pre-coloring crime (5, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#44784743)

How is bypassing neighborhoods with a high crime rate "racism", unless you yourself are saying high crime areas ALWAYS have people of a certain race...

There are criminals of every race. The desire to reduce the probability of crime is not a matter of race, but of common sense.

Re:Real racism is pre-coloring crime (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784877)

Liberals show their racist ideology by making an automatic leap to race.

There are places in Boston where the thugs are quite Irish and white.

Re:Real racism is pre-coloring crime (4, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year ago | (#44784895)

How is bypassing neighborhoods with a high crime rate "racism", unless you yourself are saying high crime areas ALWAYS have people of a certain race...

Of course they don't. Take a look at Paris. The bad ones are full of arabs and the terrible ones are full of blacks.

If you go to Brussels it's completely the other way round.

Re:Real racism is pre-coloring crime (2)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year ago | (#44785131)

How is bypassing neighborhoods with a high crime rate "racism", unless you yourself are saying high crime areas ALWAYS have people of a certain race...

Of course they don't. Take a look at Paris. The bad ones are full of arabs and the terrible ones are full of blacks.

If you go to Brussels it's completely the other way round.

Or, go to Shanghai, where the bad ones are full of Chinese and the terrible ones are full of Chinese.

Guess what? you find them in the great areas too....

(I know, that takes it a bit far, but using Paris as an example made me laugh -- half the city is made up of first or second generation French, with a large portion coming from Algeria and Portugal)

Re:Real racism is pre-coloring crime (4, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#44784915)

When the bypass is based on actual crime stats, it is not racist at all.

The problem is when it is based on perceived safety and that perception is based on how many people of (race you don't like) can be seen.

Re:Real racism is pre-coloring crime (3, Insightful)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year ago | (#44784943)

Probably because the metrics are based on input from users (who are probably simply flagging any of the *them* neighborhoods) and not any rational data. You have to live a pretty sheltered life to think you're going to drive through any neighborhood and get dragged out of your car and robbed. I'm not saying it never happens, but the odds are damned low. I went to a city college in a "bad" KC neighborhood and the crime stats were really low. And, that's for kids walking around, living, and working there, not just driving through.

Maybe there are *bad* neighborhoods where this information is relevant, but my guess is the percentage of these neighborhoods is low enough to obviate an app like this. If you're staying out of dark alleyways populated by shadowy figures at 2am, you're probably safe on just about any street. If you take a look at crime maps for your city, the results are usually pretty surprising.

Re:Real racism is pre-coloring crime (3, Informative)

Entropius (188861) | about a year ago | (#44784991)

I don't know about Kansas City, but in the Baltimore/Washington area, there are very definitely places where crime is a constant threat -- not just in a "boogeyman" sort of way, but in a "both my housemate and my officemate have been robbed at gunpoint and I had a crackhead constantly breaking my car windows to smoke crack in there" sort of way.

Re:Real racism is pre-coloring crime (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44784963)

The difference between 'avoiding a neighborhood' and 'leper colony' is huge, they are almost the opposite, as I understand it.

The main point of a leper colony is to keep people in it, quarantine them. No one is trying to keep anyone in a bad neighborhood. If they move to a different place, no one will care.

Re:Real racism is pre-coloring crime (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785017)

I was going to make this same comment.

The only thing in all of this that seems racist to me is the part where critics of the technology claim that avoiding neighborhoods with high crime rates is racist.
And even if those areas are disproportionately made up of one race, are we supposed to put our lives in danger in an attempt to be politically correct?

Re:Real racism is pre-coloring crime (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785091)

It depends on whether these areas actually do have a higher crime rate, doesn't it? I've read discussions on Reddit about the city I live in and bad/good neighborhoods. A lot of the frequent anti-recommendations are about perfectly safe areas that just have a high ethnic population. There are several actually high-crime areas that are only occasionally mentioned.

It never felt so good. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784747)

So now it's wrong, and even RACIST, to mitigate the risk of my family becoming victims by avoiding areas that have exceptionally high rates of crime?

Being wrong and allegedly racist never felt so good.

I don't get it (4, Insightful)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#44784767)

I don't get why people are upset about this. If a neighborhood is crime ridden, people avoid it; why shouldn't they? High crime has lots of other negative consequences (outmigration, plummeting real estate values, decrease in tax base, etc.).

I don't see what this has to do with racism. If crime is higher in a neighborhood composed of some racial minority, that's incidental; people don't avoid it because of its racial makeup, they avoid it because of crime, and the correlation with race has other causes.

Furthermore, racial minorities have no reason to live in ghettos these days; if they do, it's by choice or inertia.

Re:I don't get it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784887)

No, you don't get it.

"Furthermore, racial minorities have no reason to live in ghettos these days; if they do, it's by choice or inertia."

TBH, I wasn't aware it was a problem either until you said that. Not everyone can afford rent. Not everyone can afford to sell (and if they live in a bad neighborhood they won't.) There are fundamental issues of privilege here you are avoiding, or unaware of. Perhaps (and this is a guess). Black people prefer to live with other black people because it's safer. (The Trayvon Martin case ring a bell?)

Re:I don't get it (3, Insightful)

Entropius (188861) | about a year ago | (#44784947)

Martin used deadly force against someone. That has nothing to do with "being safer around black people"; that's related to "being safer around people whose heads you're not bashing into the pavement".

Re:I don't get it (2)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#44784975)

TBH, I wasn't aware it was a problem either until you said that. Not everyone can afford rent

It has nothing to do with rent. Black neighborhoods are not consistently cheaper than nearby white neighborhoods. And Asian neighborhoods, if anything, tend to be more expensive than nearby white neighborhoods. Racial ghettos exist these days because the people living in them choose to live there.

Black people prefer to live with other black people because it's safer. (The Trayvon Martin case ring a bell?)

But it is not safer. A a black person has a much higher probability of killing another black person than a white person does. Hate crime murders are quite rare. The safest neighborhoods for a black person are the same as the safest neighborhoods for everybody else.

As for Trayvon Martin, it's clear he had the same irrational fears you have: he was afraid of white people be, and that's why he became aggressive and ultimately got killed.

The fear of racial hate crimes is like the vaccination fears: it is utterly irrational and it causes enormous harm to the people who fall prey to it.

There are fundamental issues of privilege here you are avoiding, or unaware of.

I'm quite aware of the "white privilege" bullshit; it has no basis in reality.

Re:I don't get it (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#44785107)

That's just rationalization. Black people with money don't generally live in 'black neighborhoods'.

Poor white people and poor black people mix a lot more then they did 30 years ago. Haven't visited a city parameter trailer park lately, but I suspect even those, most segregated, ghettos are mixing.

Everything is politically incorrect (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784779)

The apps are just doing what society has been doing for ages by word of mouth. "You don't want to go to that area...". It's as old as time itself.

Whether it's the predominantly "black" areas of Oakland, the latino/hispanic areas of east LA, or the militant redneck / hillbilly areas of the south, take your pick. If it even implies racism, at least it's equal opportunity.

I suppose the term "ghetto" can apply to low-income areas if it helps. Same thing though.

The site's name was the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784787)

I think the purpose of the site was to determine which parts of town are safe. There's nothing wrong with that. When purchasing a home last year, I used an online
crime map to determine which parts of the city are safe, however by calling it "GhettoTracker.com", there are racial overtones that are implied which are not appropriate. I think this concept could have been done in a different way and it would have been fine because in addition to crime maps, user comments/reviews would be useful when buying a house or even traveling.

Re:The site's name was the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784847)

It's only racist if you believe that minorities are the reason their own neighborhoods are ghetto (they are).

Racist apps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784795)

Really? I mean really? Isn't it racist to assume a neighborhood that's shitty has something to do with race? Maybe the website owner was... but I don't think telling people a part of town to avoid is. We all have streets we dislike driving down.

Kinda wondering (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784807)

If this technology got interwoven into our lives tightly enough, could it create a ghetto in an area where none previously existed? Let's take an area like the Wasatch Front or rural Iowa where the demographics are fairly homogenous. Then you just have one little city with a slightly lower rating due to random noise. Then a positive feedback occurs, and the next thing you know American Fork is da 'hood.

How dare people try to avoid being killed (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784809)

Who do they think they are? Free people?

This is getting ridiculous. It is QUITE obvious that most white people (more than 90%) do not want to live in a 'multicultural' society - and why would we? This app is just another way for white people to try to avoid the constant grief and crime that NON-WHITES bring to our countries. We never asked them to come here, our JEW government did.

Why don't the poor, hard done by non-whites just go and live in their OWN countries, with their OWN people, and thus avoid the terrible hardship they face when living in a white country? (LOL).

Why not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784831)

Why not have maps of so called 'leper colonies'?

They had better be based on some objective criteria of why app-users wouldn't want to go there - such as crime rates. Crowd-sourcing might not work so good, as people will have all sorts of strange motives for marking a neighbourhood as 'bad'. (Such as a shop competing with your own being there...) But no need for people to stumble onto bad places. Unless they have an interest in such, but then they can take precautions.

Calling such tech 'racist' is hilarious. Both blacks and whites create bad neighbourhoods - and good ones for that matter. And the same for many other ethnicities. And if it turns out some race have a bigger share of bad places - their loss. Reality is what it is.

Jewboy-Spic vigilantes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784835)

Can it help you to avoid areas with large numbers of Kike-Wetback cop wannabes whose wives have just dumped them?

This would be really popular with niggers.

Already Done (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784853)

This has already happened with the creation of neighborhoods and zoning of cities. A real breakthrough would be if technology could level the checkerboard that makes up good and bad parts of town.

If there is utility... (2)

dentin (2175) | about a year ago | (#44784863)

If there is actual utility, then by pretty much by definition it's not racist. It's simply a statement of how things are.

How things got that way may be associated with racist problems, and racism concerns might be raised regarding how to change something, but to call the app itself racist is just stupid. Then again, a lot of how the US handles race issues is just stupid, so I suppose that's not unexpected.

Difference between the problem and the symptom (4, Interesting)

edcheevy (1160545) | about a year ago | (#44784869)

As an analyst, to me it's a question of data cleanliness. Yes, people should be able to look at the facts (i.e., crime rate) and route around a higher risk area if they so choose. Trouble is, there's a partial racial component driving those crime statistics (i.e., minorities more likely to be arrested) which probably inflates the "true" crime rates for those neighborhoods. If people are going to get all bent out of shape, they should do so up-stream. Tackle the issues that inject a racial element to crime statistics and leave the people looking for an objective measure of risk assessment alone - they're only using the best available data to make a decision.

Easier said than done of course...

ghetto (1)

confused one (671304) | about a year ago | (#44784879)

Soon, the only good neighborhood will be the orbiting city. The entire surface of the planet will be one big ghetto.

Re:ghetto (1)

XcepticZP (1331217) | about a year ago | (#44785021)

I find that movie quite hilarious for it's naivety and childishness. However, if the way things have been going is anything to go by, it may very well end up being a prophetic movie.

The affluent and/or "stay-out-of-trouble" citizens keep retreating away from these bad areas. They avoid the risk and dangers that are inherent in certain neighbourhoods. To call it racist just because a certain minority happens to be the only group that stays/moves in to that neighbourhood is pretty disengenuous. Currently, in the city where I live, there are tensions occurring because the local city council has in the works a project to use taxpayer money to "buy" land in affluent areas, so that the poor can move in. And this is all in the misguided, and well-meaning attempt to equalize what they perceive as a social injustice. All that bill will end up doing is forcing the really affluent to move even farther away from the inner city, and to enclose themselves into even larger, more exclusive living complexes. To me, the orbiting city sounds quite likely to be the distant end-result of all these things we're seeing.

The poor will always want what the rich have. To give them the power to act on that basic human desire is just a recipe for disaster.

Re:ghetto (1)

isorox (205688) | about a year ago | (#44785079)

Soon, the only good neighborhood will be the orbiting city. The entire surface of the planet will be one big ghetto.

There are only 2 counties capable of putting someone in orbit, so I assume this city will have vodka and fortune cookies?

Re:ghetto (1)

confused one (671304) | about a year ago | (#44785277)

The U.S can orbit stuff, they just don't have a vehicle approved for use to orbit people right now. 2015 or 2016 timeframe, that will be fixed -- there should be commercial options care of SpaceX and Boeing (NASA will not get Constellation or SLS or whatever they call it done, due to budgetary constraints that will eventually kill it. Again.)

But if you follow the money... the Chinese and Russians have the funds and the political willpower so they will be there too.

Yeah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784885)

You dont have to be racist to avoid the getto and possibly getting your shit stolen.

I think we've reached peak racist (4, Insightful)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#44784891)

The word is just used too often, for too many things, that it is ceasing to have any meaning for me, besides "somebody doesn't like something".

This is "racist", that is "racist", the next thing is "racist", he's a "racist", she's a "racist", my car won't start because it's "racist", my program has a memory leak because it's "racist" . . . on, and on, and on . . .

It seems to me to be the hobgoblin of tiny little minds, who can't think of anything else better to say, when they've run out of all other arguments.

For me, now, it is akin to telling someone Jewish that they're cheap, someone German that they're evil because of the Nazis, someone Italian that they're in the Mafia, someone Spanish to leave those poor bulls alone, someone French that they're military cowards, etc, etc, etc . . .

Calling someone or something "racist" . . . is in fact as about as "racist" as you can get these days.

Re:I think we've reached peak racist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785031)

I put up the Pakistan flag in the area where we pack and ship our products. A manager voiced concern that it may offend people. It is just a simple pun ('Packistan'). Having the flag up says nothing about the people of Pakistan. If I had put up my own nation's flag, I guarantee no one would think I was saying anything bad about my country. Luckily the flag looks pretty cool and practically no one around here knows where it is from anyway.

Sometimes people are so worried about racism that they think they see it when it is not present at all.

Re:I think we've reached peak racist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785177)

Calling someone or something "racist" . . . is in fact as about as "racist" as you can get these days.

That's first of all not racist, and second of all whether or not the term has been overused there's a definite phenomenon here.

First of all, realize this thing is called ghetto tracker, and then look up the definition of ghetto. The term is pretty explicitly about race, you need to extend a large benefit of the doubt to the person creating this site to think he didn't know that, and even if he didn't, surely a lot of the people providing crowd-sourced data know that. But it's marketed purpose is to avoid crime. So the fundamental assumption is that avoiding places where minorities live is the same as avoiding crime.

More generally, this informal experiment is fairly telling: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ABRlWybBqM

Black boy stealing bike = immediately confronted
White boy stealing bike = ignored
Pretty white girl stealing bike = gets help from bystanders

Part of the problem is the more insidious prejudices are unconscious.

Re:I think we've reached peak racist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785297)

Liberalism has failed on every possible level in every possible way. They can no longer debate on facts because the second facts are used for debating it is obvious they lose the debate. Therefore they resort to name calling in hopes of convincing any onlookers that they will also be called names as well if they disagree with the liberal. "Racist" is just the mose effective of those names currently.

The liberal policies have kept down blacks worse than any slavers could have ever hoped. You have them segregated in little negihborhoods where you don't have to spend money to have police patrol or have to worry about protecting good businesses because they know better than to open there. The government tells them don't worry about how many kids you have or if there is a father around, they will give you more money the more you have. Don't worry about a place to live, they will subsidise your living arrangements as long as you stay in those crummy negihborhoods. And once you are living in a shithole, with no hope of something better and you can't take it, some rich black guy comes along, like Jessie Jackson, and tells you all your problems are because of white people and corporations.

Even after that, they all vote in single step for the politicians that implement policies to keep them down and in their ghettos because those people tell them they are poor because everyone else is racists.

What About White Collar Crime? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784903)

Crime is present in every neighborhood. Methods may vary.

Re:What About White Collar Crime? (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year ago | (#44785165)

Crime is present in every neighborhood. Methods may vary.

White collar crime has a larger reach, and generally doesn't affect you at your physical location that much.

A similar app for corporations, linked against white collar crime stats, to indicate where you should and shouldn't spend/invest your money might be a good idea though....

AC Overabundance (2)

XcepticZP (1331217) | about a year ago | (#44784919)

This article, and the topic reminds me of a quote by Thomas Sowell: "The word 'racism' is like ketchup. It can be put on practically anything - and demanding evidence makes you a 'racist.'"

I find it quite a fair bit telling that the majority of posts currently visible on this article are written by AC's. Even completely non-racist and innocuous posts. To me, that says a lot.

And like another poster below mentioned. Why are people getting so uppity, when the app and it's users are just trying to make the best possible decisions for their own livelihood based on the best/only available data on the matter. If anything, such data would probably be less likely to be racist as it removes peoples' biases and interpretations (assuming the data isn't tainted by the stats, but then you're just opening up a can of worms).

Re:AC Overabundance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785007)

I find it quite a fair bit telling that the majority of posts currently visible on this article are written by AC's. Even completely non-racist and innocuous posts. To me, that says a lot.

I think you're reading too much into that considering that the vast majority of logged-in accounts here are pseudonyms that are not traceable to real identities. Every Slashdot discussion has a large contingent of ACs posting, probably because not everyone sees value in having an account.

Re:AC Overabundance (1)

XcepticZP (1331217) | about a year ago | (#44785029)

Well, from the comments I've read, there seems to be a much higher proportion of AC's in this discussion than all the other ones I've participated in and/or read.

Re:AC Overabundance (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785233)

There will eventually be writing style detectors that will remove anonymity from any sufficiently large body of text written by a single author. By logging in, you are creating such a large body of text, all those posts nicely linked together. You won't be deanonymized tomorrow or next year, but eventually you will and the internet never forgets. It's also possible that Slashdot is secretly logging all the IPs, but at least that information might not be available on the public internet at the time when these deanonymizing algorithms get good enough.

Re:AC Overabundance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785009)

BTW, "uppity" is a word that you're not really allowed to use these days, as it has been used to refer to black people who didn't "know their place".

Posting as AC for the reasons you mention. :P

Information Isn't Judgement (1)

wrackspurt (3028771) | about a year ago | (#44784937)

to sacrifice one of our favorite assumptions: that these tools are inherently logical and neutral...the motivations driving the algorithms may not match the motivations of those algorithms' users.'

Information has to be seen in context and used in context. If you don't know the neighbourhood and you feel vulnerable you probably want to go with whatever information you can get and worry about whether it's prejudiced when your safe. If you've some first hand information it's probably going to trump some app. Either way information is almost always welcome even if it's a way to find out later the source can't be trusted. Information isn't money. It doesn't have a face value backed by something like the government. Information acted on without judgement is naive.

There will always be good and bad parts of town (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44784953)

"There goes the neighborhood" isn't a new thing. Technology is not an enabler of the classification, merely an accelerator (or if you prefer, a substitute for classic word of mouth.) As usual, the classification is part prejudice and part truth. And as usual, some "good" people are going to live in the "bad" part of town, maybe because they can't afford to live somewhere else, maybe for other reasons, and over time the cheap parts attract enough people from outside to turn into the up and coming part of town and gentrification sets in. Other neighborhoods become unattractive due to high rents, and when they lose their lifeblood, the young and bustling population, they crash and turn into the bad part of town. It's a natural cycle and it happens on many scales.

technology is only a tool... (2)

globaljustin (574257) | about a year ago | (#44784967)

headline should read,

Could Humans Use New Technology Create Modern-Day 'Leper Colonies'?

I love these discussions...how will a new tech affect human society? fun stuff...

But it is an engineering and cultural geography question...not a purely sociological or psychological concept...

Here's what I mean:

Engineering: when new tech is developed, the next problem is getting people to use it. "The last mile" so to speak. It's often a question of scale as well, handling 10^8 users on a system. The internet itself is a good example. Countless articles and TED talks have been given about how the internet affects society, but it is a moot point completely for places that have no internet access.

Most of the current thinking (good and bad) is about having 'universal broadband access'...not any one magic gadget or laptop...even Zuck is in on it with his new initiative....that's really just an IT and T-Com question.

Cultural Geography: It's different than sociology and psychology..soc. and psych. are theoretical quasi-sciences (definitely scientific). Cultural Geography is descriptive more than theoretical.

Psychology will tell you if playing video games changes your reactions to questions on a test.

Sociology will tell you how internet access in school and the home correlate to things like finishing college or going to prison.

Cultural Geography describes what humans do with technology.

I'm not dogmatic about these distictions, these are academic disciplines and there is always wiggle room.

Basically I'm saying that this new GhettoFinder app is nothing more than a potential tool for individual cultural geography.

It does nothing more than give data in a context. After that it is all up to the human.

Borrowing Technology (1)

Oysterville (2944937) | about a year ago | (#44784997)

Perhaps the gunshot triangulation technology from the earlier rhinophant poacher story can be used here as well.

Leper colonies aren't "long gone." (4, Informative)

bargainsale (1038112) | about a year ago | (#44785037)

Given that TFA is only using leprosy as a metaphor, I suppose this is, strictly, off-topic.

But I have to say, in the many countries where leprosy hasn't gone away, there are still plenty of very real, non-metaphorical leper colonies. I know because I'm an eye surgeon who used to work in Africa, and I've been involved in outreach trips to operate on cataracts in leper colonies. If we hadn't arranged the trips, the people would have had no chance of getting their sight back. Nobody much cares about them.

Find another bloody metaphor.

Technology? Bwahahaha! (1)

Hartree (191324) | about a year ago | (#44785063)

Take an existing societal problem.
Add technology to it.
Write an article about it as if totally new.
.
Profit?

As if this hasn't been happening forever and a day. Roman citizens were telling each other "That one area downstream from where the Cloaca Maxima empties into the Tiber is really bad.". When a diplomat came to Rome, I'm sure they'd ask the locals where a good place to put a house was.

The "technology": Word of mouth. And if you really wanted to be fancy, writing.

Everything is Racist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785075)

If protecting yourself and your children from being exposed to dysfunctional behavior is "racism", so be it. Some people can't get through their thick skulls that real life will never live up to their self-serving utopias. The lumpen proletariat sucks and being politically correct about it will not solve their problems. I went to a public school and I absolutely hated it. No parent should be blamed from sparing their children from such abuse. Most parents with means can see it for what it is and they act accordingly and there's no amount of sophistry that can stop that. Look at what these PC politicians do with their children; they put 'em on private school and they don't get hated on.

PC Gone wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785149)

Maybe it's because I'm in the majority, but I can't help but think if an app avoided Three Mile Island we should blame them for avoiding locations where the violent crime rate is high (like, ohh, most of Chicago it seems). In the end it's about safety and while I know and understand there are far more good people in these areas than troublemakers, we should not penalize people for trying to remain safe.

PC DDT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44785195)

Badger is welcome to seek out the high crime areas and mingle.

TOO Bad for the Lepers then (1)

johnwerneken (74428) | about a year ago | (#44785261)

I am unalterably opposed to collective action of any kind to address the alleged drawbacks of what happens when technology empowers me and others to effectively make choices that others may dislike whether because the idea offends them or the consequences harm them. Actionable harm ought to be limited to damage or threat of damage to life, liberty or property. If all the businesses in a neighborhood go broke and none of the property has much value on the market because outsiders avoid the place, so what.

And it does not matter if its a racial think or even a conscious conspiracy. There is no particular reason people's choices should be limited because of harm to others - unless the harm involves use of force or its threatened use. There are criminal laws about that.

Leaping colonies (1)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about a year ago | (#44785285)

I think it is a distinct possibility. If you were for example to canvas a few acres of land with trampolines and bouncy castles you could construct a colony of people with impressive abilities to leap.

Reintegrating leapers from the colony back into non leaper towns could prove quite disruptive proposition for all concerned. Townsfolk may object to lack of toy stores to keep stocks of trampolines or the increased price associated with sudden demand spike. Townsfolk may also not appreciate right of ways being canvased with trampolines or stripmalls with bouncy floors.

Likewise leapers may find the lack of bounce outside the colony to be so disheartening they may become depressed and require counseling.

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