New York City Council Header
File #: Res 1443-2012    Version: * Name: Microsoft to disclose the data sources it plans to use for its “pedestrian route production” application.
Type: Resolution Status: Filed
Committee: Committee on Technology
On agenda: 7/25/2012
Enactment date: Law number:
Title: Resolution calling on Microsoft to disclose the data sources it plans to use for its “pedestrian route production” application.
Sponsors: Ruben Wills, Albert Vann, Deborah L. Rose, Karen Koslowitz, Letitia James, Leroy G. Comrie, Jr., Rosie Mendez, Annabel Palma, Jumaane D. Williams
Council Member Sponsors: 9
Res. No. 1443
 
 
Resolution calling on Microsoft to disclose the data sources it plans to use for its "pedestrian route production" application.
 
 
By Council Members Wills, Vann, Rose, Koslowitz, James, Comrie, Mendez, Palma and Williams
 
 
      Whereas, On January 3, 2012, Microsoft Corporation ("Microsoft") submitted a patent application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office for a smartphone application ("app") that would recommend walking directions for pedestrian users; and
      Whereas, Labeled in the patent application as a "pedestrian route production," this app would use a global positioning system to detect a user's location and would incorporate weather, terrain, and neighborhood safety information when recommending a walking route to the user; and
      Whereas, Shortly after the patent application was publicized, Microsoft's pedestrian route production app was quickly named the "avoid ghetto" app for its goal of directing pedestrians away from unsafe neighborhoods; and
      Whereas, In its patent application, Microsoft did not explain what metrics the app would use to determine the safety of a neighborhood beyond defining a "safe" neighborhood as one in with "violent crime statistics below a certain threshold"; and
      Whereas, Critics of the patent have expressed their concern that such an app would have a disproportionately negative impact on low-income neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color if it were released; and
      Whereas, By directing pedestrians away from neighborhoods alleged to have high rates of violent crime, the proposed app risks ostracizing entire communities and perpetuating negative associations with those areas; and
      Whereas, This app could also thwart the economic development of certain areas  if fewer businesses were patronized due to less pedestrian traffic; and
      Whereas, Crime statistics can vary from one block to the next, compromising the efficacy of such an app; and
      Whereas, Since violent crime is not indigenous to any one neighborhood, Microsoft's pedestrian route production app can lure its users into a false sense of security; and
      Whereas, Without knowing the data sources for the pedestrian route production app, it is impossible to know whether there are any inherent biases in the crime statistics that might favor one neighborhood over the other; and
      Whereas, It is irresponsible and potentially damaging to publicize the impending release of an app that incorporates public safety data without also disclosing the source of its information; now, therefore, be it
           Resolved, That the Council of the City of New York calls on Microsoft to disclose the data sources it plans to use for its "pedestrian route production" application.
 
DMB
LS# 3272
7/20/12