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Russia has a lot of problems, what with its recent wave of political unrest, newly reinstated President Vladimir Putin’s crack down on protestors, and, of course, its unforgiving winter. According to Russian online newspaper The Village, the country also suffers from an inordinate number of what it calls “parking douches.” “There is a big infrastructure problem here because our cities are not equipped for parking. There aren’t many ways for people to park legally,” explains Katya Bazilevskaya, marketing director of Moscow-based Look at Media, The Village’s parent company. “People park at the streets everywhere. Some of them are exceptionally impolite. They will park in your yard, in front of your apartment building, right next to other cars.” And so the paper has released a video about a free smart phone app that allows you to photograph these inconsiderate double, triple, and sidewalk parkers and share their information on Facebook (FB).
The goal of the app is to “make such practices socially unacceptable using digital media,” according to The Village‘s explanatory video. After you photograph a car and enter its information—license plate, car model, and color—the app will turn it into a pop-up banner ad that reads “[License plate number] annoys you on here just as he does on [Street name].” The ads are targeted to nearby computer users via their IP addresses so that the only people who receive information about an offending parker are the people who live or work nearby it. To get rid of it, you have to share the car’s information on Facebook.
It’s essentially a crowdsourced version of a public shaming sentence akin to those enacted in certain areas of the U.S. In Putnam County, Fla., and Aberdeen, Wash., people convicted of shoplifting (or in at least one case, embezzlement) have been made to stand outside holding “I stole” signs publicly marking them as criminals. The sentences have had varying levels of success, and it’s likely that the parking app will too. According to Bazilevskaya, more than 4,500 people have downloaded the app since its launch last week, although most of those people are “big activists. They are using it a lot.”
The Village’s app has one flaw: It forces people to suffer through pop-up ads on websites. Still, it’s a pretty ingenious way to solve Russia’s urban parking problem. A savvy policemen could use it to find cars that deserve a ticket. Maybe it could also be expanded to other countries and other products. Who else would you like to shame publicly? Movie talkers? Parents who bring ill-behaved children into fancy restaurants? People who put clothes on their pets? The possibilities for social humiliation are endless.