A couple of smartphone apps have made waves in the media this week. One
is designed to help you stay out of “sketchy” parts of towns. The other
helps you see the politics of the products you buy. Tech journos
have spent the last few days sussing out the human side of Sketch Factor. The app allows users to drop pins on a digital map to tell others what parts of town are “sketchy,” and let’s them provide a short description of why they think so.
Tech writers say Sketch Factor rides a very fine line between a useful, crowdsourced application and a venue for mean-spirited or even racist profiling of communities.
Here’s what the app’s designers have to say to that:
“SketchFactor is a tool that can be used anywhere at any time by anyone. The app is not exclusive to privileged communities or tourists. Many of our users experience racial profiling, police misconduct, and harassment. We encourage all users to report this information. In addition, we partner with community organizations to ensure all members of the community have access to this app.”
So far, its use in Memphis has been limited. It’s also unclear how many users are for real and how many are trolling.
Another app, Buy Partisan, allows users to see the political profile of a company that makes the product they are about to buy.
I scanned a few things on my desk. My Alka-Selzer Plus Cold and Cough is 53 percent Republican, 33 percent Democrat, and 15 percent “others.” Click on a category, like board of directors, and the app shows you how those board members have spent money on political campaigns, political action committees, and more.