Sun. Nov 17th, 2019

Controversy for using beggars for facial identification of black people

Take out money at an ATM, open a bank account, pass a check at an airport, start the car, enter a private club, access our home, activate the mobile phone, control the attendance of students to a class … All this can get hold of it face. Just look at one camera for anything to open or activate.

The technology of facial recognition It is in full expansion, but also under suspicion by sowing many doubts about the use that can be made of all that information. And not everything goes, experts on the subject warn, to perfect the algorithms used by that emerging and profitable industry.

The latest controversy has jumped with Google. The technology company is back in the spotlight after revealing information from the newspaper The New York Daily News the use of homeless black people to perfect their facial recognition system on future devices, such as the Pixel 4 mobile phone. Those homeless citizens, that information reveals, were invited in exchange for a five-dollar gift voucher to “lend” their face to scan your face. A research work that would aim to expand the biometric database of Google with physical features of black people so that this technology is right in the recognition of that breed.

The technology company already had problems in 2015 with its Google Photos facial recognition system. He confused a couple of black people with gorillas. The explanation was that in the database of that program there were very few biometric data on features and faces of black people. Now we would try to solve the problem by expanding this information (with facial strokes other than Caucasian) in the algorithms of the latest generation phones.

Jordi González, a researcher at the Center for Computer Vision at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), points out that the reliability and success of “artificial intelligence methods will always depend on the data they feed on”. So in the field of facial recognition, biometric data "have to be as diverse as possible for the system to identify between different races." The problem "is never technology – González insists – but the use made of the information obtained with it".

In the latest Google controversy, the question that should be asked, therefore, is who now controls the information obtained by scanning those faces of people with no color and where these data are stored.

The technology company has already announced that this investigation has been suspended. Google argues that the company hired an external firm to carry out this work and that it did not know how these biometric data were being collected. In some information published in the US It is pointed out that the election of those people of color without a roof sought two purposes: to expand the information on the faces of those citizens of that race and to ensure, being homeless, that the investigation would go unnoticed. Google also ensures that this issue has been taken very seriously and that it will go all the way to clarify what happened.

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