Algorithmic Justice League calls on facial recognition companies to pledge ethics

The Algorithmic Justice League has launched a campaign calling for facial recognition software companies to pledge to a standard of ethical behavior, with Robbie.AI, Yoti, and Simprints as initial signatories. The Safe Face Pledge sets conditions on sales of facial recognition technology to government and law enforcement agencies, and addresses algorithmic bias and transparency.

The Safe Face Pledge calls on companies to “show value for human life, dignity, and rights,” “address harmful bias,” “facilitate transparency,” and “embed safe face pledge into (their) business practices.” Each requirement is broken down into two to four specific points, which among other things explicitly barring contributing to applications that risk human life, and commit to enabling external analysis of facial technology available in the market.

“Computer vision uses machine-learning techniques to do facial analysis,” says Algorithmic Justice League Founder Joy Buolamwini, who was named to the recent Bloomberg 50 list for her 2018 accomplishments. “You create a training set with examples of faces. However, if the training sets aren’t diverse, any face that deviates too much from the established norm will be harder to detect, identify, or classify for attributes like age. With the errors, biases and lack of oversight, companies should have more accountability.”

Buolamwini’s research at MIT’s Media Lab brought international attention to the issue of bias in facial recognition systems earlier this year. She also contributed an op-ed to the New York Times on the subject in June.

Public and private organizations including NEC, IBM, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Megvii, and Axon are urged to sign the Safe Face Pledge. Microsoft President Brad Smith recently continued his case for regulation of facial recognition, adding a call for voluntary ethical conduct by companies. Each of the other companies named in the announcement, as well as many more, have been caught up in headlines relating to ethical use of biometrics, algorithmic bias, and data privacy in 2018.

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