Back in the long days of August 2014, two young white people launched an app called SketchFactor. The app used crowdsourcing to report user experiences to help rate the relative "sketchiness" of certain areas in major cities and provide users with "safer" navigation.
As some may recall, this business model was promptly savaged by the general public for being perceived as an obvious tool for racist data collecting. SketchFactor's launch turned into a social media siege, and within a few months the app disappeared, leaving behind - if nothing else - a very useful cautionary tale to tech entrepreneurs.
Well, it's March of 2016 and according to a report in TechCrunch that lesson has NOT been learned!
Most mapping companies are pretty good at getting you from point A to point B. They usually optimize for the quickest or shortest route, but rarely take into account the risks of navigating the shady end of town. RedZone, an iOS app launched today, adds a soupçon of street smarts to your navigatory efforts.
When you’ve lived in a place for a while, you know that sometimes it’s easier to go a couple of blocks out of your way to avoid that smelly street, those pesky teenagers or that place that seems to have a lot of shootings. If you’re new in town, however, you don’t have that luxury; that’s where RedZone comes in. The app maps out its eponymous “red zones;” those parts of town with a high concentration of crime.
The data in the app is in part crowdsourced, and in part obtained from existing sources of data, providing a comprehensive crime map using geo-fencing technology that combines crime data from federal, state and local enforcement agencies, news outlets and real-time crowdsourcing, as well as more than 1,400 data sources.
RedZone is apparently SketchFactor 2.0, with all of the functionality of the previous app... and even less awareness.
Before you go off thinking that this is just the original SketchFactor founders renaming and hoping that everyone had forgotten their previous attempt, neither appears to be involved in any way with RedZone.
In fact RedZone is the property of a Florida hotel investor named Ted Farnsworth. He is also white. Here is what he told Tech Crunch about his new app:
“We believe that RedZone’s innovative technology will allow the average person to be more aware of his or her surroundings ��� in real time — and will enable the user to share information with others in communities all over the world,” said Ted Farnsworth, RedZone CEO and founder.
Considering that Farnsworth is touting the "innovative technology" of an app that appears to be a facsimile of a thing launched less than two years ago, it stands to reason that he has maybe never even heard of SketchFactor. But based on a sampling of some tweets fried off in the last few hours, he is about to learn.
It's like deja vu all over again.