Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 1.44.09 PM

Update: The GhettoTracker URL now redirects to a site called “Good Part of Town,” The family in the homepage image is no longer white, and the site does not use “ghetto” anymore to denote a bad part of town.

Are you ready for the most offensive startup of all time? It’s called GhettoTracker and its purpose is to show nice, law-abiding families (like the smiling, conspicuously white foursome on its homepage) what neighborhoods are “safe” to visit and which are, in the website’s offensive parlance, “ghetto.”

Um, where to begin. First it’s pretty detrimental to society when we reinforce the idea that poor or crime-heavy areas are places to be categorically avoided or shamed. As if to assume that every person who lives in an area with comparatively high crime or poverty is a criminal, or that these areas are devoid of culture or positivity.

And how about the site’s deplorable racial implications: The white family on the homepage. The photo of two black men reaching into a trunk that populated when I shared the URL.

And finally, it’s not even effective at determining high crime areas! According to the site, the Park Slope neighborhood in Brooklyn is a “ghetto.” Yeah, most people I know who avoid Park Slope do it to avoid the families and comfortable domesticity, not gangbangers and drug dealers.

Look, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to know if an area has a high incidence of crime. But most cities have crime maps that measure this information without the bias or motives of “the crowd.”

It struck me that the website could very well be meant as satire so I emailed the site and asked. Their answer was confusing: “Hi David, Yes, the site is meant to be both a satire and functional at the same time. Thanks and be safe.”

I asked them if they worried that sent a mixed message, since satire isn’t usually the best attitude to take when building a functional app. On the same note, delusions of functionality threaten to lend false legitimacy to a satirical premise. In other words, you can’t have it both ways. Either position undermines the other. Here’s their response:

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.

There you go. “Very real and serious.” They could’ve fooled me.

HT Dan Nguyen