theodp writes: GhettoTracker.com, which invited users to rate neighborhoods based on 'which parts of town are safe and which ones are ghetto, or unsafe', predictably drew the ire of the press and was quickly shut down amid cries of racism. "This site is gone. It's not worth the trouble," explained the site's creator, who insisted race-had-nothing-to-do-with-it. Not to excuse the at best ill-conceived 'Ghetto Tracker,' but why was there much less outrage from the press when the USPTO gave IBM a patent on adding surcharges to your auto insurance premium when a GPS device reports that you drove into an area in Big Blue's bad neighborhood database? Or when Microsoft was granted a patent on walking directions that avoid crime-ridden neighborhoods? Or when Google was charged with issuing a bad neighborhood caution to walking directions? When it comes down to it, how different is 'Ghetto Tracker' from Google's patented system and method for storing and providing routes, which proposes to 'remove streets from recommended directions if uploaded route information indicates that travelers seem to avoid the street' (routes that 'traverse one or more high crime areas,' explains Google, 'may be less appealing to most travelers')? In spirit, aren't both really kind of all about using tech to avoid Martin Luther King Boulevard? Does omitting the word 'ghetto' make the tech giants' patents non-racist?
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