Google Pulls Calorie Counting Feature From Maps App After Backlash

Image courtesy of @TaylorLorenz | @sweetbabyruski

If you use Google Maps, you may have noticed a new feature recently: One that tells you how many calories you’ll likely burn walking to wherever it is you’re going. Google has now pulled that tool, after users complained that it often wasn’t correct, and criticism over the fact that it showed users how many mini cupcakes worth of calories they could burn on their route.

Google started rolling out the feature last week, explaining that “the average person burns 90 calories by walking 1 mile. To help put that into perspective, we’ve estimated how many desserts your walk would burn. One mini cupcake is around 110 calories.”

On Monday night, Google pulled the feature, confirming to Engadget that it had been a test for iOS users, but that user feedback had prompted the company to abandon the tool.

Indeed, many did not welcome this new feature when it launched, with Twitter users complaining that there was no way to disable it, and pointing out that it felt a bit like shaming people into exercising. Besides, there are already plenty of fitness tracking apps out there.

The clinical director of the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders at the University of North Carolina told The New York Times that she was baffled to see the feature pop up on her app last week: Even if Google meant the tool to be an incentive to walk, she says people with eating disorders may fixate on the number, which can be a dangerous way of thinking and is something counselors try to minimize.

“We’ve gotten into this habit of thinking about our bodies and the foods we take in and how much activity we do as this mathematical equation, and it’s really not,” Stephanie Zerwas told the NYT. “The more we have technology that promotes that view, the more people who may develop eating disorders might be triggered into that pathway.”

We’ve reached out to Google for more information and will update this post if we receive a response.

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