Things We Saw Today: Amazon’s Facial Recognition Tech Is Super Racist, Even Against Members of Congress
Amazon is clearly hoping that its new face recognition technology, Rekognition, will be the wave of the future. Others, though, see it as an invasion of privacy, as well as inaccurate. Now, the tech has misidentified 28 members of Congress as suspected criminals after the ACLU of Northern California asked the program to match the pictures of 535 members of Congress against 25,000 publicly available mugshot photos. And no, Rekognition wasn’t responding to claims of actual complaints made against Congress, like the repeated use of taxpayer money in sexual harassment and discrimination hush funds. Turns out, the software is just plain racist.
We used Amazon’s facial recognition tool to compare photos of members of Congress to a database of mugshots — we got 28 false matches.
And even though they only make up 20% of Congress, nearly 40% of the false matches in our test were members of color. https://t.co/WdNRWtqZfa
— ACLU (@ACLU) July 26, 2018
Rekognition misidentified 28 members of Congress as matching those mugshots, which is only a five percent error rate if you’re taking into account the 535 members total. But among non-white members of Congress, the error rate shoots to 39%. Six of those misidentified were members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who had already penned an open letter to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, urging him to stop selling this face recognition technology to police.
Amazon’s response statement basically amounted to “that’s not on us.” I wish that were more surprising. (via Gizmodo)
- Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke tweeted out a picture of a dinosaur skull he keeps in his office. Seeing as he’s been leading the rollback of protections for National Parks and other public lands–the exact sorts of public lands where fossils like this one can be found–his attempt to win over dinophiles hasn’t gone too well. (via Yahoo)
- Anne Hathaway is asking other white people to be aware of their privilege in a thoughtful tribute to Nia Wilson, the black woman recently murdered at Oakland’s MacArthur BART station. (via Instagram)
- This Gilda Radner documentary, told largely through her own diaries and audio/video recordings, is going to have me bawling. Just the trailer has already done me in, emotionally speaking.
- Toronto voted for a total ban on handguns following a recent mass shooting in the city. Mayor John Tory asked at a recent city council meeting “Why does anyone in this city need to have a gun at all?” F*ck your thoughts and prayers, this is what action looks like. (via HuffPost)
- I love these book covers of classics featuring early negative reviews. (via BoingBoing)
- I don’t think we’ve talked yet about this Swedish student who refused to take her seat on a flight to Turkey, knowing that a fellow passenger was being forcibly deported to Afghanistan after being denied asylum. But we need to be talking about her. (via Pajiba)
Happy almost Friday!
(image: Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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