Appalling Linkbait: CBS Seattle says Microsoft GPS patent has “avoid Ghetto” feature

Sun, Jan 15, 2012

News

Business on the web is, for the most part, dominated by pageviews. More eyeballs translate into more ad revenue. To that end, crafting a snazzy and eye-catching headline is an important part of getting traffic. But often times, a website’s thirst for pageviews can translate into what people affectionately refer to as “link bait.”

I ran into a particularly glaring example of this last weekend when I stumbled across a CBS Seattle article titled, “Microsoft Patents ‘Avoid Ghetto’ Feature For GPS Devices”.

Intrigued, I clicked onto the article which went onto describe a Microsoft patent for a GPS device that could display ┬ácalibrated travel routes for pedestrians as to completely avoid an “unsafe neighborhood or being in an open area that is subject to harsh temperatures.”

The GPS system would naturally take into account pertinent weather data and local crime statistics to come up with appropriate routes.

All in all, sounds like a great feature. Who doesn’t want to avoid neighborhoods with high crime rates when possible?

But I was confused.

Despite being prominently displayed in the article’s headline, the word “Ghetto” was not cited at all in Microsoft’s actual patent application. After looking through the actual patent, all I noticed were references to calculating routes as to maximize a pedestrian’s safety and explanations as to why it’s a useful feature.

Moreover, it can be more dangerous for a pedestrian to enter an unsafe neighborhood then a person in a vehicle since a pedestrian is more exposed and it is more difficult for her to leave an unsafe neighborhood quickly.

So for reasons that are patently obvious, CBS Seattle deliberately chose the word “Ghetto” knowing full well that it evokes a certain type of response, and is more likely to lead to pageviews than a headline that was more in tune with the spirit of the patent.

Microsoft’s patent isn’t about “avoiding the Ghetto.” It’s about keeping people safe.

via CBS Seattle

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