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Last Week in AI #84

LAPD facial recognition, Twitter and Zoom's algorithmic bias, and more!

Last Week in AI #84

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Mini Briefs

Controversial facial-recognition software used 30,000 times by LAPD in last decade, records show

It is now well-known that a number of police departments around America have made use of facial recognition. But the Los Angeles Police Department’s has been a particularly heavy user: the LAPD used facial recognition software nearly 30,000 times since 2009. The figures reveal the extensive use behind the vague and contradictory information the LAPD provided about how and whether it uses the technology–the department often denied using facial recognition at all. While the LAPD does not have its own platform, it does have access to facial recognition software through a regional database. The LAPD now claims it was open about its use, but civil liberties advocates note the LAPD’s recent denials which were only corrected after being questioned.

Twitter and Zoom’s algorithmic bias issues

Social media platform Twitter has come under fire recently for an image cropping algorithm that users noticed automatically focused on white faces over black ones. While Twitter claims it tested the service for bias before deploying it, the company accepts that it didn’t do enough. Video conferencing service Zoom received criticism for similar reasons after a PhD student tweeted about a Black faculty member’s issues with the platform: when using a virtual background, Zoom would remove his head. There has been debate about the causes of these complications and whether Twitter’s cropping bias is real, but the fact that it crops out Black people at all when it does not crop out white people renders its algorithm problematic.

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  • My data point as a woman in AI - I have not felt disadvantaged for being a woman in AI. Two immediate clarifications: This is not a counter data point to the experiences other women in AI have shared. It is simply an additional one. My experience is likely a consequence of obliviousness, luck, and privilege.

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