The Impact of Racial Bias in Facial Recognition Technology

Figure 1: Shows the “trust” and distrust (labeled “Trust less” that people within the United States have on some of the world’s largest and most impactful technology giants with their personal data. According to the bar graph, people trust Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft, more than they distrust those giants, though by relatively small margins. When it comes some of the other tech giants shown in the graph (Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, Whatsapp, and Youtube), distrust of these companies with personal data soars as high as 72%. The combined valuation of the five most distrusted companies in the graph is a whopping $1 trillion USD, and their user base soars well above a quarter of the world’s population (Ahmed).

On a Thursday afternoon in January, Robert Julian-Borchak Williams was in his office at an automotive supply company when he got a call from the Detroit Police Department telling him to come to the station to be arrested. He thought at first that it was a prank.

An hour later, when he pulled into his driveway in a quiet subdivision in Farmington Hills, Mich., a police car pulled up behind, blocking him in. Two officers got out and handcuffed Mr. Williams on his front lawn, in front of his wife and two young daughters, who were distraught. The police wouldn’t say why he was being arrested, only showing him a piece of paper with his photo and the words “felony warrant” and “larceny.”

During questioning, an officer showed Williams a picture of a suspect. His response, as he told the ACLU[9], was to reject the claim. “This is not me,” he told the officer. “I hope y’all don’t think all black people look alike.” He says the officer replied: “The computer says it’s you.”

Figure 2: Depicts a survey that COMPAS would employ and types of questions that were asked such that COMPAS could, based on the results of the survey, evaluate the offender’s likelihood of re-offending. Example questions include the age they were when their parents separated as well as how many of their friends/acquaintances were arrested in the last 3–6 months. ProPublica compared these risk assessments for 7,000 people arrested in a Florida county and came upon shocking findings (Angwin et al. 2016; Garber, 2016; Liptak, 2017).
Figure 3: Depicts the comparative risk assessments of various individuals. As seen by the risk scores at the bottom of each individual, people that were Black had a higher risk assessment than those that were not Black, even though their offenses were far less in severity.[16]
Figure 4: Shows a white man, shocked, with all of his features present and in great detail (right); a Black man, missing his head because Zoom thought that it was just part of the background, while part of his upper torso and right arm remain (left).
Figure 5: Depicts a report by a system which wrongfully claimed that in the photo that the subject uploaded, the subject’s eyes were closed.[20]

Works Cited





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