Uber, the popular ride share service, is rolling out a new feature in Washington, D.C. that allows the city’s residents to request quick deliveries of everything from Altoids to Zest Ocean Breeze Refreshing Bar Soap.
The practice of “redlining” has been utilized for decades by industries ranging from supermarkets to banking. But if brick and mortar stores engage in a kind of quiet discrimination by simply choosing not to opt in to low-income or minority neighborhoods, companies like Uber, which are highly scalable and inherently mobile, make conscious decisions to purposefully opt out of entire neighborhoods from their service areas.
Technology companies in particular, born in the lily-white incubators of Silicon Valley and Alley, are increasingly coming under fire for their questionable relationships to minority communities. Most recently, the makers of smartphone app Sketch Factor, which advises users which neighborhoods are “sketchy,” faced harsh criticism for stoking racial profiling by flagging predominantly minority neighborhoods.