US Human Rights Network Blog

US Human Rights Network Blog



USHRN opposes the perpetuation of racial bias in unregulated facial recognition softwares

Apr 1, 2019

GENEVA — Following the 24th session of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (WGEPAD) on the topic “Data for Racial Justice,” the US Human Rights Network issued the following statement on racial discrimination in facial recognition software:

Technological innovations in artificial intelligence like facial recognition software often perpetuate and create racial injustices that human rights defenders have been fighting to eradicate for generations. Multiple studies have found that AI has higher rates of mistaken identification with women and people of color.

During the Thematic Discussion on People of African Descent in North America, particular attention was given to research by Joy Buolamwini whose work reveals the disparity in error rates of facial recognition software between white/fair-skinned men and men and women of color. The most advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence software are able to correctly identify the gender of a white man 99 percent of the time, while the same software will incorrectly identify a woman of color’s gender around 35 percent of the time.

As unregulated artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies are increasingly utilized in the public arena, people of color are disproportionately misidentified, for example, as criminally suspect due to the overrepresentation of people of color in law enforcement databases and the high error rates of machine learning technologies in recognizing people of color.

The US Human Rights Network affirms that facial recognition softwares should not be used by city agencies and the police. The potential to misuse new technologies for mass surveillance, and to further discriminate against and criminalize innocent people of color, must be taken seriously by local, state, and national legislators. Further development and implementation of AI and facial recognition technologies must consider the right to freedom from discrimination and the right to privacy.


Link to recent USHRN Statements:

USHRN opposes Donald Trump’s nomination of Kelly Craft as next United Nations Ambassador

USHRN opposes restricting abortion, affirms nation’s obligation to protect the human right to safe and legal abortion

USHRN condemns Chabad of Poway synagogue shooting

USHRN denounces Donald Trump’s attacks on Representative Ilhan Omar

USHRN Statement on a Declaration of National Emergency to Build Trump’s Border Wall

USHRN Statement on the Removal of Immigrant Children from Parents at the Border