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A new iPhone app co-founded by former District residents called SketchFactor launched Friday. It’s the latest attempt to crowdsource the entirely subjective impressions a lot of people have of the cities they live in, in the name of public safety. Ostensibly, the idea is to help people avoid “sketchy” areas, but even the app’s creators acknowledged before they launched Friday that it could easily devolve into racial profiling (only, you know, DISRUPTED).
“We understand that people will see this issue,” co-founder and ex-Washingtonian Allison McGuire told Crain’s New York Business on Thursday. “And even though [co-founder Dan Herrington] 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.”
So far, though, the app’s reports from the District don’t seem to be doing much empowering of anyone except those of us who logged in to see what nonsense other users had posted. And as of about 4 p.m. today, most posts seem concentrated in Northwest near where users presumably work; there were only a handful outside downtown areas, and only one report from east of the Anacostia River at all. Here are some early highlights.
“Man with beard is acting rude @ Starbucks” — posted by SketchFactor App at 18th and I streets NW (pictured above)
“I was coming out of the metro and an African American was playing the saxophone. He saw me and abruptly started playing Sesame Street’s theme song, then he yelled at me “I hate white people!” — posted by Virginia at 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW
“Homeless man threw a drink at me” — posted by SketchFactor Online at 14th and L streets NW
“Lots of crime around here, mostly robberies, stabbing a, and some gun violence. Walk in groups, especially at night, and don’t have an iPhone out.” — posted by Ben at Georgia Avenue and New Hampshire Avenue NW (which happens to be a few blocks from where I live and walk around safely day or night, rarely in a group, sometimes with an iPhone)