While Silicon Valley brims with brilliant overachievers, its intense inward focus can make for a rather cramped view of the world. Think "satire" that cruelly pokes fun at San Francisco's homeless population, or very serious (and very real) experiments that suggest a homeless man's life could be changed for the better with a few coding lessons.
Today, that worldview was manifested in a startup called Ghetto Tracker, which purports to alert rich travelers to the locations of a city's poor people so they can be avoided. (Ghetto Tracker has since been renamed "Good Part of Town," which does nothing to change its intended purpose.)
The startup's mission is every bit as tone-deaf as one would expect from such a one-percent endeavor. "We use a rating system that allows locals and people familiar with area rate which parts of town are safe and which ones are ghetto, or unsafe," reads the site's self-ascribed purpose for existing:
Racial undertones aside (requisite stock photo of a smiling white family? Check!), the technology behind the Ghetto Tracker doesn't even work. Check out noted slums like Greenwich Village in Manhattan (median household income: $75,000), or worse, famed crime haven Park Slope (which isn't even plotted in Brooklyn).
When asked if Ghetto Tracker was indeed a real project or merely bad satire, its creators responded with this:
The only thing that's satire is the name, and I'd classify it as more tongue-in-cheek. The functionality is very real and serious. [PandoDaily]
The startup world: Helping rich people avoid poor people, one website at a time. But perhaps the most disturbing part of the whole horrible thing? The service has 1,400 Facebook likes and counting.
Update 9/4/2013: The website appears to have been taken down.
Update 9/5/2013: Well, that was fast. Nitasha Tiku at Gawker reports that Ghetto Tracker/Good Part of Town is gearing up for a comeback. Only this time the website includes a "topical scene from the 1983 film National Lampoon's Vacation where Chevy Chase drives his family through a poor black crime-ridden neighborhood." And if there were any doubts about the anonymous creator's icky intentions, the Tumblr Public Shaming has collected a number of racist screengrabs nabbed from Ghetto Tracker's now-deleted Facebook page. It's pretty ugly.