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Microsoft is getting some notice for a new “avoid the unsafe areas” patent it’s received for GPS technology targeting pedestrians (the tech also lets people know about harsh temperatures—-something smartphones do anyway, right?). Gizmodo has no problem with the tech, noting: “If you’re in an unknown part of town, it’s reassuring to know where you are going. It’s even better to know what you’re walking into.”

Which, sure, sounds reasonable. Until you think about it for more than 30 seconds. Unless they’re traveling abroad, most people aren’t walking around completely unfamiliar areas. I find it hard to believe many pedestrians will take the long way around to avoid a sketchy ‘hood—-either they’ll go by car or bike or public transit—-and if they’re diverted by only a few blocks, then what’s the point? The borders of criminal activity aren’t hard-and-fast.

And not that this is Microsoft’s business, but what’s the value in diverting foot traffic away from areas that could use more of it—-except to play on the fears of people who probably wouldn’t get caught dead in those areas anyway?

Photo by Darrow Montgomery / Illustration by Shani Hilton