congressional black caucus, amazon, rekognition, face recognition

Things We Saw Today: Amazon’s Facial Recognition Tech Is Super Racist, Even Against Members of Congress

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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.

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.

Happy almost Friday!

(image: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.
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