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To be starting points for conversation, designers must first acknowledge that recommendation systems (both those that are run by humans and those relying upon algorithms) have the power to suggest and constrain expression.Bizarre links between Grindr and Sex Offender Search can be great starting points for those who are privileged enough to recognize nonsensical associations, possess enough technical knowledge to understand how such systems might make links, and have the confidence and communication skills to argue the point with friends, family members and others.He doesn't know anyone else who's gay and he's desperate for ways to meet others who are gay/bi/curious -- and, yes, maybe see how it feels to have sex with a guy.
To answer the first question of who made this association between Grindr and Sex Offender Search: it is those who design and maintain the Android Marketplace, the Droid's version of Apple's App Store.
To be fair, Apple has had its own struggles deciding what kinds of apps to sell: for a while it rejected a cartoon app created by Pulitzer Prize-winning Mark Fiore because it "ridiculed public figures"; and it recently deleted an app designed by a religious group to "cure" gay people.
He immediately learns that he's about to download something onto his phone that in some way -- some way that he doesn't entirely understand -- associates him with registered sex offenders. In the best case, he knows that the association is ridiculous, gets a little angry, vows to do more to combat such stereotypes, downloads the application and has a bit more courage as he explores his identity.
In a worse case, he sees the association, freaks out that he's being tracked and linked to sex offenders, doesn't download the application and continues feeling isolated.
Finally, are terms the application creators themselves use to describe their programs considered similar through some automatic keyword matching algorithm?
Sex Offender Search lists these key words: sex offender search, sex offenders, megan's law, megan law, child molesters, sexual predators, neighborhood safety, criminals, Life360, Life 360.
The second question -- how was this association made -- is harder to answer.
Google, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook don't make public the systems and algorithms they use to create relationships among data.
The problem of deciding what to sell through the app store is not new.