It has been a busy week for David Foster. Foster and his company, just one week ago, began beta testing a website and soon to be released app called “Ghetto Tracker”. The name alone created a firestorm of criticism from national media outlets as well as local broadcast TV stations. Everyone from CNN and MSNBC to the Huffington Post, to dozens of local broadcast TV affiliates have come out strongly against the website and app that aims to keep visitors to any city away from the “bad parts of town”.
The headline on the Huffington Post: “‘Ghetto Tracker,’ App That Helps Rich Avoid Poor, Is As Bad As It Sounds”
CNN’s piece about the app states,
“The word choice was far from the only problem critics had with Ghetto Tracker, which featured a stock photo of a smiling white family on its homepage. Many called it out, accused it of being racist and classist. Ghetto Tracker’s ratings of neighborhoods weren’t based on any hard crime data, just the impressions and biases of regular people.”
Foster’s reaction, he pulled the site down and renamed it “The Good Part of Town”. David Holmes with Pando Daily went after the app writing,
“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,”
By Saturday Foster had reversed course and reinstated the original name ‘Ghetto Tracker’ because of what the owner of the site says has been an incredible outpouring of support.
“When we looked at the percentage of positive feedback versus the little bit of negative. We are not trying to be insensitive but in reality if it offends you then just don’t go there. That is not our intention. Our intention is to help people,” says Foster who talked exclusively with Ben Swann via Skype.
Foster has received dozens of requests for interviews from the national networks and local affiliates nationwide but came to BenSwann.com to share his side of the story.
“I refused to do a single interview until I had talked to you first because I know what is going to happen. They are going to get me on there, they are going to spin it, they are probably going to cut it up and make it something that it isn’t and I don’t want to deal with that.”
So where does the name “Ghetto Tracker” come from? Foster says that he created the app in response to his wife having to travel often for her job and not knowing what parts of town she would feel safest in.
“If we would call this app anything, we looked at slum tracker we looked at all these different names. No matter what we would have called it, as soon as those areas were highlighted and people thought that we were focusing in on the ghetto, we would have been in this situation anyway, regardless of the name,” says Foster.
To be clear, “Ghetto Tracker” does not attempt to correlate crime data in order to determine less “safe” parts of a community. Instead, the information in the app is completely uploaded by users. Foster says what he is doing is similar to the ratings system for sites like Hotels.com.
“It is completely created by users, all the feedback. Like if somebody goes into an area, like rating a hotel, if they are in an area and they feel like its not a decent area, they can mark it in there, make a comment and say this is what I experienced in this area.” claims Foster.
Swann: “You do not feel that the name, and obviously not because you have gone back to “Ghetto Tracker”. You do not feel that the name is insensitive in any way?
Foster: “I don’t and I think that we are past that as people, I would like to think we are. That we would not call something for what it really is. What is another word you could use? Slums? Skidrow? Bad part of town? I don’t know what a word that would appease people would be.”
Swann: “When people criticize this they say, ‘Well, this promotes racism, this promotes kind of a classist system where you are keeping wealthy people away from poor people by saying ghetto tracker. Here’s how you avoid “the ghetto”, here’s how you avoid poor people’. What do you say to the claim that you are keeping people apart?”
Foster: “I am in Tallahassee, Florida and if I was going to be traveling up north, I have no idea where to go up there. I could get on Hotels.com and book a hotel and end up in a questionable area and like I said, its all based on user feedback so its just people helping people.” “You really don’t have any other way to get that information and to know what kind of an area you are going into. It is a real issue.”
Swann: “What about the claim that some people would make that by using the term “ghetto” you are essentially labeling people who live in those areas as being less than those who do not?”
Foster: “Personally I feel that if they have that issue with that word, that is their issue. See, I don’t feel like there’s an issue with that word. The actual definition of the word, and I looked it up is ‘an impoverished, neglected or otherwise disadvantaged residential area of a city usually troubled by a disproportionately large amount of crime.’ So I don’t see that as labeling people, I see that as labeling an area.”
Most interestingly, Foster claims that for every one or two negative emails he has received over the past week, he has received 30 positive ones. Part of why he claims the “righteous indignation” surrounding this app isn’t coming from the public but is completely created by media.
“I think it is all being propagated by the media and this is why I contacted you. I think the biggest injustice being done to the American people today is the media.” “Right now we are facing a potential war in Syria. There are some real issues in this country, things we need to be dealing with, things we need to be having a real conversation about.” says Foster who goes on to insist that in a free market, no one is forced to use his site or app,
“In my opinion if I were to see a web site, like this and I didn’t want to use it, I just wouldn’t use it. I wouldn’t be complaining about it. I wouldn’t see it as class warfare. I wouldn’t be looking at it like they have ulterior motives. I would just say ‘That isn’t a site I want to use, next.’ But they are putting so much focus.”
After our interview, I was contacted by David Foster who explains that his desire is to promote growth and opportunity in impoverished neighborhoods and sent me this statement claiming he will donate 20% of all proceeds to improving inner city neighborhoods.
“We have decided that if and when GhettoTracker makes money…we are going to donate 20% of all profits to non-profit organizations that help neighborhoods improve. We feel that this could really raise awareness to a problem that people would otherwise ignore. The first step to fixing a problem is to acknowledge there IS a problem. We also want to educate the US population about the ridiculous overspending on wars overseas. If we took the amount spent for a single day of war, and donated it to non-profit organizations that help the hungry and homeless here in our own country, we could almost eliminate it. Please connect with us on our social media channels to get updates:”
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