Is Facial Recognition Technology Racist?

Posted in Library of Congress, Politics, Race, Undogegorized by chamblee54 on June 26, 2020

Wrongfully Arrested Because Face Recognition Can’t Tell Black People Apart This headline. posted on facebook, led to a discussion of Facial Recognition Technology (FRT). The headline pushed all kinds of buttons for PG. People are aroused, to the breaking point, about racism. The person who posted the story disagrees. Pictures today are from The Library of Congress.

The reply posted by person #1 featured some other links. One was for a video, Wrongfully Arrested Because of Flawed Face Recognition Technology. To PG, this is more reasonable, and less inflammatory, than “… Can’t Tell Black People Apart.” It is also easier to believe. PG can accept that FRT has more problems with POC, than with PWOC. To make a blanket claim like “… Can’t Tell Black People Apart” seems like an dangerous exaggeration.

The conversation sat still for the rest of the day. Person #1 is an attorney, who used to live in Atlanta. This is where PG met him. Person #1 is an intelligent, thoughtful person, someone you should listen to. PG might disagree with person #1 on this issue, while still having respect for him.

Then person #2 entered the conversation. PG has never met person #2. All he knows is what he sees on her facebook page. It shows pictures of a vacation in Havana. Person #2 is clearly white. The fact that she took a vacation in Havana indicates that person #2 enjoys a certain amount of privilege. Here is what person #2 added to the conversation:

“”…flawed face recognition technology” sounds like there was a glitch, not like the entire technology was designed in a way that supports white, male normativity (aka white supremacy). Your suggestion that this is the same message is false and suggests we should avoid being more upset by avoiding the actual issue here—because we should frame matters in ways that obfuscate the real problem. We can’t begin to solve these problems if we are afraid to actually say what they are. Yeah, people are going to be upset. THEY SHOULD BE.” … “If you are following the protests and the recent changes that have happened, you know exactly what the anger has led to. If Black anger makes you uncomfortable, address your white fragility. Try to let go of your tone policing and actually engage with the issues. That’s work you have to do on your own.”

University Avenue cleared of barricades near property where Rayshard Brooks was killed. This was the story PG posted in response to “you know exactly what the anger has led to.” In the aftermath of the Rayshard Brooks killing, an armed gang took over the burned out Wendy’s on University Avenue, where the incident occurred. “Residents of the south Atlanta neighborhood in the area had grown frustrated by the blockade that formed – guarded by what they described as armed citizens who they said were not protesting but using the space for their own gain. Residents said that the people would block the street and sometimes not allow them to get in or out of their neighborhood.”

This is one of many examples of where the anger caused by current events has spilled over to harm people. Often, the “collateral damage” did nothing to deserve the abuse they are getting. In many cases, it is POC who are suffering the brunt of the damage. When a privileged white person, like #2, rabble rouses people into action, this is what can happen. University Avenue is the first exit on i75/i85 south of downtown, and is an important access point for many neighborhoods. Many of the people affected by the turmoil on University Avenue are white.

After hearing talk about “white fragility” and “tone policing,” PG is inclined to dismiss person #2 as a cliche spouting idiot. Unfortunately, that seems to be the approach many people have to complex issues. The idea that FRT is designed to reinforce white supremacy would be very amusing to the Chinese government. They are major players in FRT, using it to enable Asian hegenomy.

Lets examine the notion that FRT is racist by design. If this were the case, the developers would go the extra mile to make fewer mistakes with POC. If the goal of FRT is to keep the lawless POC masses under control, then it would help if the system actually worked on POC.

One of the articles cited by person #1 mentioned announcements by some major tech industry players that they were not going to sell FRT services to police. The article linked above mentions concerns about race/gender bias. However, the greater focus here is the overall privacy concerns about FRT.

Is it really a good idea to focus on the racial problems with FRT? There have long been overall privacy concerns about Big Brother. Unfortunately, many people will see an headline about racism and either tune it out, or think that it does not affect them. (“If you are tired of talking about racism, how would you like to live with it”) The human rights concerns about FRT affect everyone. To dismiss these concerns as “white fragility” is counterproductive, insulting, and insane.

This feature is approaching the attention limit of many readers. The facebook thread, and the identity of persons #1 and #2, were hidden out of respect for the privacy of the people involved. Even a cliche-spouting SJW deserves privacy.

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