Facial Recognition Software: Biased as Hell



An October letter to the Department of Justice by 52 civil rights and civil liberties organizations (including MA) cited growing evidence that the widespread and illegitimate use of facial recognition devices has disproportionate impact on youth, women, African-Americans and people of Middle eastern descent through identifiable anomalies in the algorithims used.

The letter states: “A prominent 2012 study, co-authored by an FBI expert, found that several leading face recognition algorithms were 5 to 10 percent less accurate on African Americans than Caucasians. Such inaccuracies raise the risk that, absent appropriate safeguards, innocent African Americans may mistakenly be placed on a suspect list or investigated for a crime solely because a flawed algorithm failed to identify the correct suspect. Despite these findings, there is no regular, independent testing regime for racial bias in face recognition algorithms. In fact, the 2016 Georgetown report found that two major face recognition vendors did not conduct internal tests for bias either”.

“Such facts are particularly disturbing given that face recognition technology is increasingly being used by federal, state, and local law enforcement for routine investigations, and face recognition networks have grown to include half of all American adults. According to the Georgetown report, more than 117 million American adults are included in face recognition networks across the country, and at least one in four state or local police departments can run facial recognition searches through their own network or the network of another agency. For example, the Sheriff’s Office in Pinellas County, Florida alone estimates that more than 8,000 face recognition searches are conducted on its system every month. Similarly, the FBI is expanding the reach of its face recognition unit (FACE Services), through which it can access more than 30 million photos in its own database and scan the driver’s license photos of 16 states. From August 2011 through December 2015, the FBI requested nearly 215,000 searches of external partners’ databases alone”.

You can read the full letter below.

Coalition Letter to DOJ CRT re Face Recognition 10-18-2016 (1)


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