Fighting Racism in AI, BLM Co-Founder Says to Tech Bosses
By Demonic Catarina
LISBON, November 3 (Reuters) – As concerns grow about racial bias in artificial intelligence, Black Lives Matter co-founder Opal Tometi has urged the tech industry to act quickly against the perpetuation of racism in systems like facial recognition.
“A lot of algorithms, a lot of data are racist,” the American activist who co-founded BLM in 2013 told Reuters on the sidelines of the Lisbon Web Summit.
“We need technology to really understand in all aspects (racism) that it manifests in the technologies that they develop,” she said.
Artificial intelligence is transforming the world and can be applied in a variety of industries, from improving early disease detection to sorting data and solving complex problems.
But there are also concerns about it.
In recent years, the tech industry has faced a judgment on the ethics of AI technologies, with critics claiming such systems could compromise privacy, target marginalized groups and standardize intrusive surveillance. .
Some tech companies have recognized that some AI-based facial recognitions, which are popular among retailers and hospitals for security purposes, may be flawed.
On Wednesday, Facebook announced it was shutting down its facial recognition system over concerns over its use, and Microsoft last said it would wait for federal regulation before selling facial recognition technology to police.
Police in the United States and Great Britain use facial recognition to identify suspects. But a study by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology found that the technology is not as accurate at identifying African American and Asian faces compared to Caucasian faces.
Last year, the first known wrongful arrest based on incorrect facial recognition took place in the United States. The United Nations cited the case, attributed to the tool being mostly trained on white faces, as an example of the dangers posed by a lack of diversity in the tech sector.
“They (tech companies) have to be very careful because technology has the ability to accelerate values that would otherwise occur more slowly,” Tometi said. “But technology is making everything faster, so the impact will be worse, faster.”
Urging software developers to “pay attention to every detail,” she said they should hear more from black people.
“Unfortunately, I feel like tech companies have a long way to go in building a bridge with the community,” she said.
According to digital rights group Algorithmic Justice League, one of the reasons AI systems aren’t inclusive is the predominantly white composition of developer teams.
“We need solutions for the future, for future challenges, but those solutions have to be very inclusive,” Tometi said. “They have to protect marginalized and vulnerable communities – it is their duty.”
(Reporting by Catarina Demony; Additional reporting by Miguel Pereira and Pedro Nunes; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Alison Willliams)
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