Rite Aid has been using facial recognition for 8 years

Jeffrey Dastin writing for Reuters:

The cameras matched facial images of customers entering a store to those of people Rite Aid previously observed engaging in potential criminal activity, causing an alert to be sent to security agents’ smartphones. Agents then reviewed the match for accuracy and could tell the customer to leave.

Rite Aid deployed facial recognition systems in hundreds of U.S. stores

The DeepCam systems were primarily deployed in “lower-income, non-white neighborhoods,” and, according to current and former Rite Aid employees, a previous system called FaceFirst regularly made mistakes:

“It doesn’t pick up Black people well,” one loss prevention staffer said last year while using FaceFirst at a Rite Aid in an African-American neighborhood of Detroit. “If your eyes are the same way, or if you’re wearing your headband like another person is wearing a headband, you’re going to get a hit.”

Automated systems are often wrong

And automated background checks may be terrible!

The reports can be created in a few seconds, using searches based on partial names or incomplete dates of birth. Tenants generally have no choice but to submit to the screenings and typically pay an application fee for the privilege. Automated reports are usually delivered to landlords without a human ever glancing at the results to see if they contain obvious mistakes, according to court records and interviews.

How Automated Background Checks Freeze Out Renters

So much of ethical AI comes down to requiring a human-in-the-loop for any system that has a non-trivial impact on other humans.

AI Bias Bounties

Like bug bounties, but for bias in AI:

A similar problem exists in information security and one solution gaining traction are “bug bounty programs”. Bug bounty programs seek to allow security researchers and laymen to submit their exploits directly to the affected parties in exchange for compensation.

The market rate for security bounties for the average company on HackerOne range from \$100-\$1000. Bigger companies can pay more. In 2017, Facebook has disclosed paying \$880,000 in bug bounties, with a minimum of $500 a bounty. Google pays from \$100 to \$31,337 for exploits and Google paid \$3,000,000 in security bounties in 2016.

It seems reasonable to suggest at least big companies with large market caps who already have bounty reporting infrastructure, attempt to reward and collaborate with those who find bias in their software, rather than have them take it to the press in frustration and with no compensation for their efforts.

Bias Bounty Programs as a Method of Combatting Bias in AI

AI researchers submitting to NeurIPS conference must now address ethical concerns

Khari Johnson, writing for Venture Beat:

For the first time ever, researchers who submit papers to NeurIPS, one of the biggest AI research conferences in the world, must now state the “potential broader impact of their work” on society as well as any financial conflict of interest, conference organizers told VentureBeat.

NeurIPS requires AI researchers to account for societal impact and financial conflicts of interest

NeurIPS, or the Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, is the largest AI conference in the world.

Facial recognition tech in Moscow

First London, now Moscow.

Moscow is the latest major city to introduce live facial recognition cameras to its streets, with Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announcing that the technology is operating “on a mass scale” earlier this month, according to a report from Russian business paper Vedomosti.

. . . . .

Moscow started trialing live facial recognition in 2017, using technology from Russian firm NtechLab to scan footage from the Russian capital’s network of 160,000 CCTV cameras. The company is best known for its FindFace software, which it launched in 2016 and let users match anyone in a picture to their profile on VK, known as Russia’s Facebook.

The app was criticized by some, particularly as it was used to dox and harass sex workers, and NtechLab eventually shut it down in favor of enterprise and government work.

Moscow rolls out live facial recognition system with an app to alert police

Heart prints are a new biometric

While the world debates the utility and ethics of existing facial recognition technology, new biometrics are constantly being developed. They are likely to replace facial recognition in the long term.

This system, dubbed Jetson, is able to measure, from up to 200 metres away, the minute vibrations induced in clothing by someone’s heartbeat. Since hearts differ in both shape and contraction pattern, the details of heartbeats differ, too. The effect of this on the fabric of garments produces what Ideal Innovations, a firm involved in the Jetson project, calls a “heartprint”—a pattern reckoned sufficiently distinctive to confirm someone’s identity.

To measure heartprints remotely Jetson employs gadgets called laser vibrometers. These work by detecting minute variations in a laser beam that has been reflected off an object of interest. They have been used for decades to study things like bridges, aircraft bodies, warship cannons and wind turbines—searching for otherwise-invisible cracks, air pockets and other dangerous defects in materials. However, only in the past five years or so has laser vibrometry become good enough to distinguish the vibrations induced in fabric by heartprints.

People can now be identified at a distance by their heartbeat

This is astonishing technology and will surely improve. In the long term your unique identity will be readily available to anyone who cares.

London police adopt facial recognition, permanently

Adam Satariano, writing for the NYT:

The technology London plans to deploy goes beyond many of the facial recognition systems used elsewhere, which match a photo against a database to identify a person. The new systems, created by the company NEC, attempt to identify people on a police watch list in real time with security cameras, giving officers a chance to stop them in the specific location.

London Police Amp Up Surveillance With Real-Time Facial Recognition

The objections voiced in the article are about potential inaccuracies in the system. But that will change over time. I don’t see many objections over the power of the system.

As Europe considers banning facial recognition technology, and police departments everywhere look to it to improve policing and safety, this may be the technology fight of the 2020’s.

Prediction: security wins over privacy.

German Data Ethics Commission insists AI regulation is necessary

The German Data Ethics Commission issued a 240-page report with 75 recommendations for regulating data, algorithmic systems, and AI. It is one of the strongest views on ethical AI to date and favors explicit regulation.

The Data Ethics Commission holds the view that regulation is necessary, and cannot be replaced by ethical principles.

Opinion of the Data Ethics Commission – Executive Summary at 7 (emphasis original).

The report divides ethical considerations into concerns about either data or algorithmic systems. For data, the report suggests that rights associated with the data will play a significant role in the ethical landscape. For example, ensuring that individuals provide informed consent for use of their personal data addresses a number of significant ethical issues.

For algorithmic systems, however, the report suggests that the AI systems might have no connection to the affected individuals. As a result, even non-personal data for which there are no associated rights could be used in an unethical manner. The report concludes that regulation is necessary to the extent there is a potential for harm.

The report identifies five levels of algorithmic system criticality. Applications with zero or negligible potential for harm would face no regulation. The regulatory burden would increase as the potential for harm increases, up to a total ban. For applications with serious potential for harm, the report recommends constant oversight.

The framework appears to be a good candidate for future ethical AI regulation in Europe, and perhaps (by default) the world.

Biased algorithms are easier to fix

Sendhil Mullainathan in an excellent essay for the NYT:

Humans are inscrutable in a way that algorithms are not. Our explanations for our behavior are shifting and constructed after the fact. To measure racial discrimination by people, we must create controlled circumstances in the real world where only race differs. For an algorithm, we can create equally controlled just by feeding it the right data and observing its behavior.

Biased Algorithms Are Easier to Fix Than Biased People

This is a fascinating complement to the concern that deep learning algorithms are a black box and we do not understand how they work. Even so, they are much easier to study than humans. Algorithms are tractable in a way that humans are not.

At its core, this essay is an argument for AI regulation, and an argument that such regulation will actually work.