'Sketchy' app indirectly leads to news van burglary - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

'Sketchy' app indirectly leads to news van burglary

A new app relies on crowdsourcing to identify areas of 'racial profiling, harassment, low lighting, desolate areas, weird stuff, you name it.' (Source: MGN photos) A new app relies on crowdsourcing to identify areas of 'racial profiling, harassment, low lighting, desolate areas, weird stuff, you name it.' (Source: MGN photos)

(RNN) – A community profiling app called SketchFactor launched Friday and already has attracted a lot of attention.

A WUSA news crew in Washington, DC, were checking out the veracity of an app that alerts people of questionable neighborhoods Friday. Though they didn't name the app, the date of their investigation coincided with SketchFactor's official launch date.

While the crew was interviewing residents in an area the app labeled sketchy, their news van was burglarized, and their equipment was stolen. Most of the stolen equipment was recovered.

SketchFactor depends on crowdsourcing to identify areas in major cities of “racial profiling, harassment, low lighting, desolate areas, weird stuff, you name it,” according to the app's website.

Those who use the app can vote on the communities they consider sketchy, and other users can vote up or down each user's suggestions.

Some claimed SketchFactor might draw upon more than a rational assessment of an area's relative safety.

Gawker was among the media outlets decrying the app's potential for racism, saying the term sketchy "is the term young white people use to describe places where they don't feel safe because they watched all five seasons of The Wire."

The creators of SketchFactor criticized the negative press.

"These hit pieces have attacked the founders personally," the website read. "We get it; they need clicks. However, the reporters of these pieces never contacted us, never interviewed us, and the app wasn't even live when they wrote it."

SketchFactor also stated on its website, "During app development, we've consulted with literally hundreds of different people, dozens of community groups across New York City, tested it with 100 beta testers. This is that app that came of it."

Crain's New York Business stated "the site could be vulnerable to criticisms regarding the degree to which race is used to profile a neighborhood" and stated that "fear is relative."

In an interview with Crain's New York Business, Allison McGuire, who created the app with Daniel Herrington, admitted race may be an issue in their reporting system. She countered that the app is meant to be used by everyone.

"Even though Dan and I are admittedly both young, white people, the app is not built for us as young, white people," McGuire stated. "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."

SketchFactor is currently available in the Apple app store and is slated to be released on the Google store.

Copyright 2014 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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