Federal Study Confirms Racial Bias in Facial-Recognition Systems. Which, Yeah, We Know

Photo: Steffi Loos (Getty Images)

A federal study released Thursday shows that facial recognition technology used by law enforcement misidentified people of color more often than white people. In other news, water is indeed wet.

The Washington Post reports that a study conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the federal lab that develops standards for emerging technology, found that Asian and African-American people were up to 100 times more prone to being falsely identified than their white counterparts. The study also found that when it came to searches police investigators use to compare one face to millions of others, black women were more often falsely identified than any other group.

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Additionally, when it came to the kinds of searches that are used for cellphone log-ins and airport boarding the study found that Asians, African-Americans, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders also demonstrate high error rates. This isn’t particularly surprising news, as when the iPhone X released, multiple Chinese users reported their friends and relatives being able to unlock their phones with Face ID.

It’s unsurprising that a technology developed in what is traditionally one of the least diverse fields has trouble recognizing anything other than white men. What’s most troubling is that this faulty technology is already being used in the real world by police departments in Los Angeles and Detroit. Should it remain active the consequences could range from false arrests or sadly, be fatal.

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About the author

Joe Jurado

Freelance Evening Writer @TheRoot. Watcher of wrestling, player of video games. Mr. Steal Your Disney+ Password.