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Microsoft Crime Patents Idle

Microsoft Patents Bad Neighborhood Detection 317

Posted by timothy
from the not-sure-why-people-are-so-worked-up-about-it dept.
PolygamousRanchKid writes with these lines culled from InformationWeek: "With the grant of their US Patent #8090532 Microsoft may be attempting to corner the market on GPS systems for use by pedestrians, or they may have opened a fertile ground for discrimination lawsuits. ... Described as a patent on pedestrian route production, the patent describes a two-way system of building navigation devices targeted at people who are not in vehicles, but still require the use of such a device to most efficiently route to their destination. ... For example, the user inputs their destination and any constraints or requirements they might have, such as a wheelchair accessible route, types of terrain they are willing to cross, the option of public transportation, and a way point such as the nearest Starbucks on the route. Any previously configured preferences are also considered, such as avoiding neighborhoods that exceed a certain threshold of violent crime statistics (hence the description of this as the 'avoid bad neighborhoods' patent), fastest route, most scenic, etc." Having lived in some high-crime neighborhoods, the actual feature (versus the patent) sounds like a great idea to me.
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Microsoft Patents Bad Neighborhood Detection

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  • Very subjective (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    What you call a bad neighborhood, I may call home. Where do I send the money for the lawsuit?
    • Re:Very subjective (Score:5, Informative)

      by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @12:34PM (#38629872) Homepage Journal
      RTFS: "neighborhoods that exceed a certain threshold of violent crime statistics."
      • by alphatel (1450715) * on Sunday January 08, 2012 @12:51PM (#38630028)
        Use this tool to figure out which route the rich kids with cell phones are taking and relieve them of their property.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Add accelerometers and detect "GPS A approaches GPS B - sudden impact accelerations - GPS B begins sharing coordinates with GPS A". Block GPS A and update violent crimes map (also, call 911).

        • by bfandreas (603438)
          No, dude. It's ...you know... when you are ...like... new in town, yaknowwaddamean? And you need to score ...like... you know ... some weed then that's totally awesome, dude. You could score a whole barn of weed...
          Hehe, want a toke on this?


          Something along that line. Or maybe prostitutes. Or really cheap kebaps. Or every inner city bus stop that's ever been in existence since the history of forever.
      • by bfandreas (603438)
        I don't think there's an app for that. You will need local knowledge. And some common sense. Unpacking your Android 3g 10.1'' tablet and firing up Google maps at 2am in a dark corner of Nottingham in plain sight of two shady figures might not be a good idea. You'll be lit up like a christmas tree and might as well hold up a billboard saying "You can has Win7 tablet". They might stroll over to you and ask you if you are lost and give you the correct directions. Then again, they might not.


        For all intents
        • I don't think there's an app for that.

          Yes there is. A whole operating system in fact. [wikipedia.org]

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by bfandreas (603438)
            I know the broken window theory. It's disputed because it mixes correlation with causation. And recent studies don't quite support it. I remember there was a story about this a couple of years ago but I can't quite remember what it was.
            But I do remember being surprised since it sounded so plausible.
            • +1 Insightful, -1 Whoosh
            • by bfandreas (603438)
              Being lame I respond to myself.

              I don't know if the broken window theory has any merit. And frankly that's besides the point.
              As a matter of fact it is a good idea to keep an area clean and well maintained. And I'm not talking about sidewalks and crumbling facades. I'm talking about sending building inspectors into the houses and taking a good look at business papers from local shop owners.

              Also misdemeanors should result in local community service. If you are caught urinating next to some house then you
        • ...might as well hold up a billboard saying "You can has Win7 tablet"...

          That should stop them dead in their tracks.

          There should be an app that can make your Android tab look like a Win7 tablet.

    • Re:Very subjective (Score:5, Insightful)

      by couchslug (175151) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @12:37PM (#38629900)

      Crime rates don't care what you call home, and if I'm travelling _I_ don't care what you call home.

      If you live in a high crime area, you don't need me as a visitor. You have no complaint.

      • Re:Very subjective (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Penguinisto (415985) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @12:57PM (#38630082) Journal

        If you live in a high crime area, you don't need me as a visitor. You have no complaint.

        Well, unless he is a criminal, in which case he does want you as a visitor.

        On a more serious note though, shying folks away from certain neighborhoods will decrease business to those areas, depressing them even further and, well, encouraging more crime. If this ever caught on, it would open a basket of crap. What if Bing goofed and blacklisted the wrong neighborhood? What if the bad neighborhood is trying to get some kind of renewal going, and businesses there desperately need the income? This would only delay things further, perhaps to the point of failure.

        I get the whole safety concept of it, but honestly, this begins to meddle in a lot of things that really shouldn't be meddled in.

        Okay, case in point: Highway 71 through Kansas City. Going southbound, it is very easy to miss a vital turn-off, and get deposited into one very rotten neighborhood. OTOH, during the day the folks are friendly enough, and I was able to ask directions, get gas, buy snacks, and one time to get a bad tire replaced. Once the sun went down, that place was not where you wanted to be (nearly everyone I spoke to there said as much), but during the day it was no problem. It eventually got so that I intentionally made stops there if I was passing through during the day, because quite a few of the business owners were very glad to see a stranger's face, the prices were reasonable, and they were a hell of a lot friendlier than the ones in better neighborhoods (let alone the truck stops).

        As someone who spent a good share of his childhood living in such areas, I'm not put off by the fact that often I was often the only caucasian-skinned guy in some of the establishments, so I guess my lack of anxiety may be a factor in all of this.

        In all though, that's a whole lot of subtle nuances that I sincerely doubt an algorithm could pick up on, and I suspect that a lot of otherwise good people are going to get screwed over by this thing.

        • Re:Very subjective (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mwehle (2491950) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @01:20PM (#38630286) Homepage

          this begins to meddle in a lot of things that really shouldn't be meddled in.

          WTF? My ignorance of crime rates is something that shouldn't be meddled in, because I have an imagined obligation to support businesses I know nothing about? Your choice to support businesses in what you describe as "one very rotten neighborhood" is *your* choice. I'd like to have access to crime data, if available, before I walk through an area that I'm unfamiliar with. If, as you suggest, there is some significant difference in crime incidence during daylight hours as opposed to darkness, I'd like to know that, also. The idea that merchants who are unknown to me are somehow entitled to my ignorance of crime rates, though, is bizarre.

          • I'm talking about meddling in areas such as renewal projects, shopping patterns/habits, and in general helping folks who live in that neighborhood rise above the bad situation they're in. Consider also this: What if the system were abused? What if neighborhoods (or rather, townships) were offered an 'out' from the blacklisting for a fee?

            Also, what of the opposite? I can tell you right now that a black man in Harrison, Arkansas [pbs.org] after dark is in greater physical danger than he would ever be in Compton, Califo

            • by bfandreas (603438)
              Indeed
              Most "bad neighborhoods" have an improvement plan. Especially after the local council deems it might have not been wise to have a whole neighbourhood consisting purely of council housing with no rozzers anywhere neare there at night because it might be a bit tedious. Having those places blacklisted by some idiotic scheme won't help one jot.

              Need I point out that intently staring at a brightly lit mobile studying how bad your surroundings are might not be such a good idea? Hell, I'd even mug you myse
              • Indeed
                Need I point out that intently staring at a brightly lit mobile studying how bad your surroundings are might not be such a good idea? Hell, I'd even mug you myself even if I can't fathom why I would want a Windows phone. Might as well nail your ears to your knees just to make sure you get a better view of your bum.

                Ah, no wonder you folks don't need guns in the UK - you've got Windows Phones as a deterrent.

                I bow to your superior defenses.

            • by qbast (1265706)

              I'm talking about meddling in areas such as renewal projects, shopping patterns/habits, and in general helping folks who live in that neighborhood rise above the bad situation they're in. Consider also this: What if the system were abused? What if neighborhoods (or rather, townships) were offered an 'out' from the blacklisting for a fee?

              Then this information also should be publicized. Preferably with list of of places that used that opt-out. Sorry, you are not going to convince me that ignorance is better than knowledge.

              Also, what of the opposite? I can tell you right now that a black man in Harrison, Arkansas [pbs.org] after dark is in greater physical danger than he would ever be in Compton, California. Would his particular GPS indicate that maybe he should keep driving until he sees a safer town for him (say, Sprinfgield, MO)?

              Hey, here is your idea for a patent and app. Go for it.

              Finally, since crime statistics are compiled on an annual basis, and often change from area to area each year, what you'd get is outdated at best, so it may well be useless to you in either event.

              There are many places that stay bad for decades. And I don't think there is so much fluctuation month-to-month to invalidate the idea.

              If, as you suggest, there is some significant difference in crime incidence during daylight hours as opposed to darkness, I'd like to know that, also.

              Indeed, but I doubt the patent's stated goal would cover that, which is why I mentioned it.

              So because it is not perfect and does not provide every possible information, the idea is worthless?

        • Re:Very subjective (Score:4, Interesting)

          by bfandreas (603438) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @02:59PM (#38630938)
          Yeah, places can change a lot between day and night. And simply assuming you will be mugged because you are in what's supposed to be a rotten neighbourhood will make you ooze fear and contempt.

          I have a similar story only slightly more idiotic.
          A colleage and I had a had a 6 months gig in Derby. Since Nottingham is only a stone throw away we decided to have a night-out in this astonishing but also slightly infamous city. Now, I wouldn't call my colleage street-smart. So there we were. At 10pm in some dark inner city alley in Notts sometimes November. And we were a bit lost.So he unfolds right then and there, I kid you not, a street plan. In the dark alley. 10 metres away from two shady figures hanging out in a dark doorway. As I inched away from my colleague fully prepared to leg it and leave him to his Darwin award they started to saunter towards us.
          -Hey there, mate!
          -Goot evenink(My colleage had a very thick German accent. The thing is, Germans are not as popular in England as you might think. Shocking, I know...)
          -You lost? That's where I took over. Survival instincts, I guess.
          -Actually yes. There's supposed to be a place that has live music at this hour but we can't quite locate it. *shows the name that I had written down*
          -Yep, I know it. It's a cool place.
          -Say, you lot look bored. Come with us. My treat.
          -Ok.By the way, mate, unfolding a map like you just did is not very clever.

          Turned out they too had watched the latest episode of Top Gear and we prepared a list of preopsterous complaints the BBC would get for JC driving that Range Rover up that hill. Bullshit bingo British. The complaints turned out to be even beyond our wits having been sharpend by multiple pints of bitter.
          Easy as that. They could also have been 'orrible muggers and I swear to god, I was prepared to run as hell. Might have had to if we had mentioned that we quite liked Derby and wanted to see how the other half lives.

          tl;dr:
          Don't do anything idiotic.Be relaxed but watchful. Bring a mate and make sure you get a head start in case you have to leg it. As my dad used to say: Son, If you go on a journey, don't bring anything you aren't prepared to lose.
        • by stdarg (456557)

          You really care more about the business owner in a bad neighborhood who will lose out on some customers than the people who unknowingly go into that bad neighborhood and *not* have the good fortune you had?

          One guy loses a few dollars. The other guy becomes the victim of a crime.

          I'm very much pro-business but this is insane. You don't hide information and lead people into life threatening situations to make a buck!

      • by Khyber (864651)

        "If you live in a high crime area"

        Welcome to America. The country of natural-born terrorists.

        Fuck you and your ignorance.

    • by gatkinso (15975) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @12:47PM (#38630006)

      You live in Baltimore?

      • by chooks (71012) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @06:35PM (#38632436)

        Modded funny, but as someone who just recently moved to BalDimore from the midwest, this is more insightful.

        My wife and I relied heavily on our GPS units to find places when we first got here. We would joke that the software seemed to have a "get crack" option enabled, as it routed us through some fairly scary neighborhoods.

  • I mean isn't this one of the things layers in GIS meant for: describing characteristics for points and areas on a map? Simplifying this but after you have done that, doesn't it just come down to some sort of switch or if statements. If so, it sounds like the patent is just too general. Or not? It sounds ridiculous if you ask me though.
  • by Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @12:36PM (#38629890)

    Instead of a dot representing the city on a map it should be a skull and crossbones.

    • by Penguinisto (415985) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @01:05PM (#38630164) Journal

      Sorry, but Detroit called 'dibs'.

    • Man, I grew up in Philly, and even 30 years ago I remember kids getting shot and killed at the playground near my house over their fucking shoes, crack pipes in the gutters on the way to school...

      I can't even imagine what things are like now. Glad I got out of there...

      • by l00sr (266426)

        Actually, Philly would probably be the killer app (ha) for this app, since it's not really neighborhoods so much as specific blocks and street corners where you're likely to get jacked. It would be even better if the app would ring in your pocket and say, "Hi--it looks like you're headed towards the projects. Are you sure you want to continue?"

  • by acidradio (659704) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @12:37PM (#38629898)

    Why should we all have to suffer at the hands of being politically correct? A bad neighborhood is what it is - BAD! It So that someone in that "bad" neighborhood isn't "offended" why should I have to risk my safety?

    I wish something like this would have existed when I chose my current house. The neighborhood looks great during the day but once it becomes dark all the bums and the freaks come out. They are all drunk or high and they do things out of "boredom" (as a police officer told me). Like vandalize my car and leave bloody handprints on the glass.

    • by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @12:39PM (#38629938) Homepage Journal

      Its because those indicators will often fall along racial lines, and for a while now here in America you have been forbidden to tell the truth.

      • by yodleboy (982200)
        "Its because those indicators will often fall along racial lines"

        Crime is crime. If your little pocket of town has higher crime than another then it's not somewhere I want to walk. When I travel, I don't know what areas to avoid.

        Give you a couple of examples from business trips. In Baltimore, driving thank god, I see these row houses up on a hill. Looks nice from where I am, so I exit the freeway to go take a look. Whoa. Crack house city. Another time, in Memphis, on foot. Looking for a restaraunt do
    • by HungWeiLo (250320)
      I wish something like this would have existed when I chose my current house.

      There was. It's called "why this house was cheaper than the other same sized ones a couple miles down". The market has accounted for crime and "ghetto-ness" of a neighborhood long before this or Redfin or Zillow or the Internet.
    • by netsavior (627338)

      I wish something like this would have existed when I chose my current house.

      Crime statistics have been google-able since, before yahoo was a search engine. So I guess they were Altavista-able.

    • by bfandreas (603438)
      There is no political correctness in statistics and science. In fact, political correctness will have a restraining order matching the one handed to religion once I take over the world.

      In the meantime, if all you do with those figures is planning routes and determine housing prices then the country goes to hell in a handbasket. And rightfully so. But it might cost a bit of money spent on poor people and landlords might be forced to paint the facades and do something about the plumbing. So the same people
  • If adoption were widespread, wouldn't automatically avoiding bad neighbourhoods simply be another instance of "white flight", denying neighbourhoods economic input that leads to further poverty and more violence?
    • by Lehk228 (705449)
      if your 'hood depends on my fucking wallet as a form of "economic input" i am staying the hell away. I already pay taxes for TANF and Section 8
    • by stdarg (456557)

      Yes, but that's a good thing. So-called "white flight" (stupid term) means successful people cluster together and make really nice neighborhoods. It's not just white people, it's all successful people. You won't find a surgeon from India (not white) living in a ghetto, he'll be in a nice affluent neighborhood. Why should everyone suffer?

      Reality: there will always be bad people, and generally all you can do is avoid them by choosing to live around good people.

  • An Iphone app called Trapster goes beyond just speed traps to cover other sorts of police activity that may cause closed roads and delay. Could archives of this data set up similar "bad area" avoidances?

  • by TheLink (130905) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @12:39PM (#38629936) Journal

    Google maps already has a feature that allows you to avoid tolls or "by foot" versions.

    Add info from stuff like this:
    http://www.nwgangs.com/gang-territory-maps.html [nwgangs.com]
    http://maps.google.com/maps/user?uid=200807321660978094818&hl=en&gl=us&ptab=2 [google.com]
    And so where's the innovation?

    I personally think patents are costing society more than the benefit they provide. Sure a few patents might be worthwhile, but when most of them are crap, what's the point? It's as stupid as throwing money at a game which provides worse odds than most casinos. A few wins don't make up for all the losses.

    You want to reward and encourage _people_ for innovating? Award Prizes for Innovation instead. It's always easier to see if something was innovative and valid from hindsight than from an overworked patent examiner's POV. You could have different areas and different categories, some chosen by "randomly selected citizens", and some chosen by "experts in the field". A bit like the Hugo and Nebula awards. That way you get some balance.

    • by TheLink (130905)
      • by bfandreas (603438)
        We should take inspiration from StarCraft 2. If you are Terran, don't step on the creep. It's darn inconsiderate of those "Crisps"(what a shoddy name) not to spread creep so we know where they are at.
    • by jvillain (546827)
      Unless they applied for this 10 years ago and it is just making it out of the patent office now, then yup there is oddles of prior art. My GPS (Magellan I think) has walking, cycling and bus mode for example. Score another win for the US patent office.
  • Exploitable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jawtheshark (198669) * <{slashdot} {at} {jawtheshark.com}> on Sunday January 08, 2012 @12:40PM (#38629948) Homepage Journal
    If I were a mugger, I'd use it to locate 'good' neighborhoods, and start mugging people there. A device to find new fat hunting grounds. I'd love it.
    • by vlm (69642)

      The problem is the "good" neighborhoods are good because of local environmental factors, more or less, not just random distribution of muggers.

      My neighborhood superficially would appear to be a great empty hunting ground based on violent crime stats. However, its across the street from the local PD and is the closest subdivision thus many of my neighbors are off-duty cops. A mugger literally wouldn't live very long around here...

      On the "food source" side, my city is big enough that people lock their doors

    • But that's not what irrational humans really do. They go after people they know, in their own neighborhoods.

      • by stdarg (456557)

        A gang of 6 muggers walking through a neighborhood with million dollar houses is going to stick out like a sore thumb. A gang of 6 muggers walking through a neighborhood where everybody is dressed like them and sounds like them, they're fine. Fish in a school.

        So how is that irrational?

    • by reboot246 (623534)
      If you were a mugger (or breaking into homes) in my neighborhood, you'd get your ass shot. That's why good neighborhoods are good. We don't tolerate crime. We don't make excuses for the criminals. We report crime and testify in court when the time comes. We vote for leaders who care about the safety of the citizens.

      It has nothing to do with color. There are people of nearly every race living in my neighborhood. The difference is that they're good people, not thugs.

      Everybody knows what it takes to turn a bad
  • Too bad they didn't patent bad software detection.
  • by Rob Riggs (6418) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @01:05PM (#38630152) Homepage Journal
    Good luck making that work. The government crime data that this feature will be using is usually out of date and highly massaged by police departments and officials with a stake in the crime rates. See, for example this NY Times article [nytimes.com].
    • by hedwards (940851)

      More than that, you don't have the granularity to make those sorts of decisions with any accuracy. Just because a neighborhood has a lot of crime doesn't mean that all points during the day and all parts of the neighborhood are equally likely to have violent crime. Around here the peak time in one of our bad neighborhoods is just after the bars close in the morning and the violence is mostly centered around the bars.

      Likewise, lighting and landscaping or lack thereof make for places that are more easily used

  • If most travelers stop taking their trips through "bad neighborhoods"; e.g. almost everyone starts avoiding so called bad neighborhoods, even the criminals, it's possible this will create more traffic and therefore more crime for so called "good neighborhoods"

    Which as a result, become "less good". Also, if the pedestrian travelers who need GPS to navigate the city are seen as the ideal target/mark (they don't know the lay of the land), then that means criminals have incentive to pick new stomping gro

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      Crime rates in bad neighborhoods are based on the people there already, and what they're doing. Not the occasional traveler. This is why in turn deghettoification can happen too, when people buy up a whole pile of shitty places in an area and push those people out.

  • I can see a few possible problems with this.

    1) Lag/delay in statistics. If the feature is abused as described in some of the posts above, an area considered safe can be unsafe for a while before the statistics catches up with reality. The opposite is also true; an area that has been "cleaned up" may be considered unsafe for a while.

    2) Different types of violent crime. Not all violent crimes occur in the streets; domnestic violence is (at least where I live) considered a violent crime, and it is also a lot m

    • by stdarg (456557)

      1) Lag/delay in statistics. If the feature is abused as described in some of the posts above, an area considered safe can be unsafe for a while before the statistics catches up with reality.

      I don't think that will make a difference. The point of this is that you don't want to be routed through the bad section of town, which has been bad for 40 years and will be bad for another 40. All the local residents know it, but the guy visiting for a weekend and relying on his phone to route from A to B has no clue. The city governments don't put up warning signs or anything.

      I still remember one year my family took a road trip and we passed through Detroit. I'm sure there are nice parts of Detroit. We ha

  • The original independent claims looked like this:

    A method, comprising:

    • collecting a request from a pedestrian that a route includes a waypoint to a general location; and
    • producing a pedestrian-based route that includes a waypoint to a specific location, based upon the collected request.

    After prosecution, this is what they ended up with. Try rendering this mess legally obvious:

    Computer storage media having embodied thereon computer-useable instructions that, when executed, perform a method, the method com

  • Bad neighborhods? Like small towns and cities where the police are revenue hungry extortionists, and a greater constant threat than the average door shaker.
  • by Chrisq (894406)
    That means I'll have to walk through a council estate on the way to work or Microsoft might sue me.

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