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Artificial intelligence

Democrats call for a review of face recognition tech

July 31, 2018

US lawmakers have asked the Government Accountability Office to examine how face recognition technology is being used by companies and law enforcement agencies.

The questioners: A group of Democrats from both the House of Representatives and the Senate sent a letter to the GAO asking to examine which agencies are using the technology, and what safeguards the industry has in place. Some form of government regulation could eventually be imposed.

Eye spies: There is growing concern that unfettered use of facial recognition could enable greater government surveillance and automate discrimination. Some companies also appear concerned. Microsoft’s general counsel, Brad Smith, recently called for the tech to be regulated.

Oh, (big) brother: The ACLU recently trained Amazon’s Rekognition technology on a public data set of criminal mugshots, and found that it incorrectly identified 28 lawmakers as law breakers. Amazon maintains that the system was used incorrectly.

Bias baked in: A study published this year by Joy Buolamwini, a researcher at MIT, and Timnit Gebru, a postdoc at Microsoft, showed that the face recognition services offered by IBM and Microsoft were better able to recognize white men than women or minorities.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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