Microsoft’s Facial Recognition Can Better Identify You With Darker Skin Tones

It seems like Microsoft is working hard on improving its facial recognition technology in order to get better at identifying people with darker skin tones than before. According to a blog post today, the error rates have been reduced by as much as 20 times for men and women with darker skin and by nine times for all women.

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While Microsoft still has a contract with ICE to use its facial recognition tech. The company says it’s been training its AI tools with larger and more evident datasets, which has led to the progress.

“If we are training machine learning systems to mimic decisions made in a biased society, using data generated by that society, then those systems will necessarily reproduce its biases,” said Hanna Wallach, a Microsoft senior researcher, in the blog post.

Facial recognition systems can be biased by limited datasets and other factors including systemic racism. In February, a report from MIT’s Media Lab tested Microsoft’s facial recognition systems as well as IBM’s, and China’s Megvii and found that up to 35% of darker-skinned women had their gender misidentified by the systems. The report then confirmed what many had suspected for years – facial recognition systems can be biased. In 2015, Google identified a software engineer’s black friends in a photo as “gorillas,” and had to apologize for the error.

Still, while Microsoft’s announcement today indicates a reduction in racial bias within its facial recognition system if law enforcement gets their hands on the improved facial recognition tool. It’s unclear how that might play out for people of color difference and whether that could exacerbate already problematic practices.

As said, Microsoft’s collaboration with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and its facial recognition tool is offered to government agents as a resource. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft in a memo last week clarified that “Microsoft is not working with the U.S. Govt on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border” but didn’t address how facial recognition might play a role in benefitting ICE’s work.

(Source: The Verge)

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