Amazon’s facial recognition software found to be racist, sexist

When covering advancements in technology including artificial intelligence and facial recognition software I’ve run across all manner of complaints from various activists. Many worry about invasions of privacy or government overreach, where Big Brother compiles lists of citizens and tracks their every move. While some of these fears may be justified to a degree, one thing I didn’t see coming was allegations that the software was going to turn out to be bigoted. And yet that’s the latest claim we’re hearing about Amazon’s facial recognition software products. They’re surprisingly accurate if you happen to be a white male, but otherwise… not so much. (Associated Press)

Facial-detection technology that Amazon is marketing to law enforcement often misidentifies women, particularly those with darker skin, according to researchers from MIT and the University of Toronto.

Privacy and civil rights advocates have called on Amazon to stop marketing its Rekognition service because of worries about discrimination against minorities. Some Amazon investors have also asked the company to stop out of fear that it makes Amazon vulnerable to lawsuits.

In the accuracy tests that were conducted, they asked the Rekognition software to identify “light-skinned” (read: white) and “darker-skinned” (read: black or brown) individuals of both genders. Amazingly, in almost one third (31%) of the cases, the software wasn’t even able to conclude that darker-skinned women were even women, misidentifying them as men. White women were tagged as men 7% of the time. Black or Hispanic males were only misidentified one percent of the time and there were zero errors in identifying white males.

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