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Controversial new Android app crowdsources “unsafe” gun ownership

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Artist, programmer and UC San Diego lecturer Brett Stalbaum is no stranger to developing computer projects that make a political statement. An electronic civil disobedience tool he made in 1998 called FloodNet was used by Mexican Zapatistas against the presidents of the United States and Mexico as well as the Pentagon.

His latest project has drawn the ire of gun owners and internet trolls alike: a crowdsourcing app that allow people to map the locations of “unsafe” gun ownership.

The Android-only app, called Gun Geo Marker, which was released this week, enables users to target locations where they believe guns are being handled recklessly. Some of the tags users can mark are:

  • “Possible unlocked/loaded/unsafe storage”
  • “Guns and unsupervised children”
  • “Documented/frequent unlawful discharge”
  • “Possible anti-government/terror threat”

GunGeoMarkerThe purpose of the crowdsourcing app, according to Stalbaum, is to further define the “geography of risk” for parents — and to give the wider community a better sense of who uses guns irresponsibly and where. But gun rights avocates and trolls and have admitted to opening the app and tagging random areas as unsafe. The app has more more than 200 1-star reviews.

It’s not an altogether surprising reaction. The app combines two highly combustible things: the debate over gun ownership, and questions about the proper use cases for crowdsourcing. Angry commenters have already taken advantage of the main pitfall with the method that Gun Geo Marker uses to tag unsafe places: It can be done without vetting, without consent, and with malicious intent. A crowdsourcing app is only as good as the skills and ethics of its crowd.

The user interface of the app itself is very bare-bones: a colleague of mine who tested it out on her Android phone said that the app artificially restricts the geography that the user can see, and both the scrolling and zooming out functions are very limited. It also wasn’t clear to her whether you can delete a marker — if you enter it incorrectly — or just add them.

While Stalbaum takes great pains to explain on his website that the app isn’t meant to punish gun owners or people belong to the NRA, the app ultimately relies on the judgment and knowledge of the users who input the map markers. And it’s not hard to see how that could be a slippery slope.

12 Responses to “Controversial new Android app crowdsources “unsafe” gun ownership”

  1. The twisted, gun-fondling right-wing filth that is protesting this app has gone off the deep end–again! This app does NOTHING to say who has a gun or who does not. What imbecile–except the gun-fondling idiot—concludes that just because a site is NOT marked as a dangerous gun owner’s location is a place where a gun would NOT be found??? If the developer had said that the marked sites represent places were guns are found no matter what reason, then it would be a dangerous app. Since the purpose of the site is only to indicate criminal recklessness, and is consistent with apps that help those who track registered sex offenders, then the concerns of the gun-loving idiots are obtuse beyond belief. But then what can we really expect from the typical gun owner, who is rarely intelligent and sensible (yes, there are the rare intelligent and sensible gun owners, and the app developer is one of them!)

    • @Smell My Hand

      Evidently you are as against the 1st Amendment (with your dismissing the viewpoint of anyone who protests this app as a “gun-fondling idiot,” trying to minimize them and/or their argument) as you are the 2nd, so I’m responding to your flailing drivel more for others benefit than your own, so here goes…

      Yes, because there are so many people out there with law degrees and the intelligence to get past their personal passion to determine criminal vs. no-criminal recklessness (as you put it). This “tool” has no other use except to snitch and cause headaches for people who have raised others ire. It does not matter what it was intended for, it’s what it will be used for and it limited utility will likely be glossed over by law enforcement entities, not to mention the public at large. If the app developer was a “rare intelligent and sensible gun owner” [sic] he would provide a well developed app that included educational material on safe and responsible gun ownership/handling, links to sites/agencies that could help fellow citizens make a mature/rational determination about the legality of someones activities and links/phone numbers to relevant law enforcement agencies should someone you suspect of wrongdoing be investigated properly.

      But you got your rant out, didn’t you SMH. How goes the armchair pundit troll business anyway?

  2. Snitches_get_stitches

    This could open up a whole new world of snitching apps! Neighbor smoking pot… rat them out. See someone in WalMart yelling at their child….rat them out…speeders, people who cut in line, people who pee on the toilet seat in public restrooms, people with unpopular views etc should consider themselves on notice…The police state has been crowdsourced.

  3. Carmen

    The whole progressive myth that people are in danger from “unsafe” gun owners is certainly at work here.

    So called “gun violence” is largely composed of 1) suicide by firearm and 2) urban male non-white on non-white criminal violence.

    Remove those 2 causes, and we have a “gun violence” number that is remarkably minor.

    Actual accidents resulting from careless gun handling is vanishingly small- your children are far more likely to drown in your neighbors pool, be killed in a car or even struck by lightning than killed from an unsecured or unsupervised gun.

    That is, if you don’t live in Chicago.

      • mikyor1

        shoot whites on shoot white of eyes , an shoot again
        wait for la riot 2.0 , i burn roof, shoot anybody walking. just like cops
        shoot christopher dornier. burn alive for shooting dogs in black shoes.
        and uniform.
        The war continues, shoot anything that moves , then shoot 2 head 1 center of mass.

  4. RobbieRobski

    This guy would have made an app to round up the communists too. I’m completely against this as I am a responsible gun owner. But what about people who would abuse a finger pointing service like this out of a grudge or even lie to “flag” someone. This is a bad app.

  5. Jason

    This is dangerous. This seems like it could be a tool designed to get neighbor to rat out neighbor. If the gov decided to outlaw gun ownership, the only protection gun owners would have is anonymity. This app helps ruin that last check on the balance of power. Not to mention, if you had a neighbor that just didn’t like you, they could mark you as having unlocked/loaded/unsupervised children, and child services, or LEOs might be able to get a warrant to search or seize your property on unfounded accusations. If we lived in the 1600s and had this tech, they could call it “Witch Marker”, and people could be put on trial or burned alive by their neighbors for it. This app does not benefit mankind, just certain men.

  6. Peter

    So if a criminal needs a gun to go commit a crime, this app is perfect! Just search for unlocked and loaded firearms. Definitely gets rid of the hassle of breaking into someones house only to find that their rifle is unloaded.

    • I think you have it backwards. Criminals are not likely to target the houses on the list because that will more likely get them shot. They will break into other houses. That assumes though that there’s any significant data in this app. The lack of data will likely make this app totally ignored by everyone (including the parents it targets).

      • Not so sure you are correct…..we all have to go to work, right? If that’s the case, why wouldn’t they just wait ’til you aren’t home, thus avoiding any chance of getting shot?