IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

SketchFactor App Responds to Accusations of Racism

Performance artist and comedian Kristina Wong is one of many accusing the navigation app of being racist, forcing the company to issue a response.
Comedian Kristina Wong is busy reporting activity she believes to be "sketchy" to the SketchFactor app. Courtesy Kristina Wong

After the new crowdsourced navigation app, SketchFactor, fell into a swirl of controversy and accusations of racism over whether the app -- used to identify, report, and rank “sketchy” neighborhoods -- would fuel racial or socioeconomic paranoia, SketchFactor responded on its website with the following statement: "Setting the record straight: SketchFactor is a tool for anyone, anywhere, at any time. We have a reporting mechanism for racial profiling, harassment, low lighting, desolate areas, weird stuff, you name it.”

“We use publicly available data sets (where available) and crowdsourcing in our platform,” SketchFactor co-founder Allison McGuire explained, calling the product “a community empowerment app” developed in consultation “with hundreds of people, dozens of community groups, and ~100 beta testers.”

But critics argue that people of different races, classes and backgrounds can interpret “dangerous” and “weird” differently.

“Stay clear of the Whole Foods on Fairfax!” warns performance artist and comedian Kristina Wong, who is filing a series of sarcastic SketchFactor reports to make her point. “Because you don't know crazy riot until you've seen its shoppers find out that they are out of quinoa!”

“Since many of the more dedicated users of SketchFactor will report sightings of poor people of color as ‘sketchy,’” said Wong, “I am going to report what's really sketchy—the theft of hard working people by corporate interests, the assault of corporate logos at venues that charge $9 for drinks served by workers making minimum wage, and mark where those really really sketchy annoying homeless-looking hipsters roam.”