back to article Facial recognition software easily IDs white men, but error rates soar for black women

Commercial AI is great at recognising the gender of white men, but not so good at doing the same job for black women. That's the conclusion of a new study, "Gender Shades: Intersectional Accuracy Disparities in Commercial Gender Classification", that compared gender classifiers developed by Microsoft, IBM, and Chinese startup …

Anonymous Coward

BBC - The Last Enemy (2008)

We're almost there, but with even less accountability... Happy days!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Enemy_(TV_series)

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Is spreading

We now have racist computer systems. When will it end!

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Re: Is spreading

As the downvotes indicate, this is something you're not allowed to say. Or think...

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Joke

Re: Is spreading

It must be made by Microsoft.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is spreading

Surely it's absolutely not racist since the one thing it can't do is discriminate?

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Re: Is spreading

Surely it's absolutely not racist since the one thing it can't do is discriminate?

It is not the computer's fault to start off with. Basic photography 101. With the same exposure levels for a colour photograph you will get less contrast and less feature differentiation for darker skin colours.

If you want to make the computer job easy, change the spectrum band in which you take pictures. I suspect that you can get significantly lower error rate going into near IR. This is already being done for number plates by the way.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is spreading

Which is odd considering most programming languages ignore white space.

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Re: Is spreading

Well, this is my first thought, poorer contrast. But it is an assumption. Even with a balanced training set tuning of parameters is often already done first on a separate set, so it could be at that stage too (and coming back the the contrast/IR issue, evaluation against other methods is often on smaller sets before being applied to larger ones, so the need for an appropriate imaging method can get missed).

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Coat

Re: Is spreading

The problem with contrast has been known for a long time. anyone else remember the racist webcam that only followed white people?

That said, the higher error rate for women vs men implies that the problem is more to do with a smaller sample set than methodology.

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Coat

Re: Is spreading

but also women usually have one less differing facial feature to help.. Beards..

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is spreading

OOO upset the MS fans. So many downvotes, so little memory.

http://uk.businessinsider.com/microsoft-deletes-racist-genocidal-tweets-from-ai-chatbot-tay-2016-3

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Re: Is spreading

>>> but also women usually have one less differing facial feature to help.. Beards..

I'm pretty sure a beard makes it much harder to identify. Women have greater variety of hair styles too. Unless they're looking a Male Pattern Baldness!

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Re: Is spreading

No icon so not sure how serious you are but it seems to me that it's a technical problem rather than one of racism.

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Alert

Re: Is spreading

@AC

Which is odd considering most programming languages ignore white space.

These must be written in Python then!

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Re: Is spreading

While the black/white thing may be due to technical factors such as contrast, perhaps the female thing is that it is software written by men and it keeps getting distracted by boobs?

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Re: Is spreading

re MrXavia.

Subtle, i like the way you left moustaches in there.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is spreading

Women tend to have more varying hairstyles, make up, glasses (if they wear them) than men, across cultures. But I agree moving the cameras into a part of the spectrum where melanin is not seen would probably help.

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Alien

Re: Is spreading

All human beings are the same and that there are no differences between men and whamen.

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Re: Is spreading

the one thing it can't do is discriminate

Given the increasing fluidity of gender identity, I can't really see why attempting to form two tidy distinct subsets is even considered a worthwhile goal - unless they're trying to maximise the revenue from Valentine cards.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is spreading

"Given the increasing fluidity of gender identity"

There are only a very few people with that condition though.

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Re: Is spreading

Voland's right hand you wrong very wrong this is the reason why,

https://petapixel.com/2015/09/19/heres-a-look-at-how-color-film-was-originally-biased-toward-white-people/

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Orv
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Surely it's absolutely not racist since the one thing it can't do is discriminate?

That's a bit like saying that there's no problem with racial minorities being shot by police, because guns can't see skin color.

Computer software can't help but reflect the biases present in the data sets it's trained with (AI), or validated against (manually coded algorithms.) One of the dangers here is that computers will become a way to codify bias in a socially acceptable, plausibly deniable way. "It's not me, it's the computer."

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Re: Is spreading

"Which is odd considering most programming languages ignore white space."

While that is true, Python is popular with AI coders. Maybe we need a language where black space is significant to balance things out? Followed by all the other colours.

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Joke

Re: Is spreading

What do we do with non-binary stuff?

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Re: Is spreading

"We now have racist computer systems. When will it end!"

On the bright side, we are, even here in the 21st century, still seeing regular news stories of black people being stopped and searched or assumed to be up to no good by white police officers. If the facial recognition is so much more poor with darker skins, then mainly white "persons of interest" will get flagged up by facial recog.

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Re: Is spreading

Women use cosmetics which might hide some specific features. Could this be a reason?

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Re: Is spreading

If the facial recognition is so much more poor with darker skins, then mainly white "persons of interest" will get flagged up by facial recog.

That depends on whether the failures are false positives or false negatives. It could be the software will decide all black people look suspiciously like its database of perps.

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Re: Is spreading

I wonder if using more cosmetics more often is a factor?

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"Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Iceland, Finland, Sweden"

There seem to be a few areas of the world with relatively distinctive features missing...

I wouldn't call it representative if there are no or very few people from the Indian subcontinent or east Asia, not to mention South America.

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Not only that but "individuals

from three African countries (Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa) and three European countries (Iceland, Finland, Sweden) selected for gender parity in the national parliaments"

The authors are so blinded by their desire to find a bias on gender and skin colour that they've picked a test dataset that is massively skewed on ethnicity, age, health and social class.

They also tie themselves in knots trying to reconcile biological gender with gender identity, so their benchmark gender classification is suspect in the first place (it's based on Mr, Mrs and the "appearance of the photo").

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Agreed. To be representative you really need to sample everywhere. Otherwise there are always going to be big gaps in its applicability domain. In this case Scandinavia is over represented, so it's going to be over trained on Vikings, while they've got just three really distant countries representing all of Africa.

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The word "Intersectional" is the giveaway. A study declaring itself Marxist/Leninist would have identified that the discrepancy was class based and constituted oppression of the proletariat using exactly the same data and for exactly the same reasons (confirmation bias).

That doesn't mean they are wrong about the differential accuracy of course. It just means they have pointlessly poisoned the well regarding the integrity of the study.

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A) Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa - three very distinct and different black race subtypes.

B) Iceland, Finland, Sweden - same Caucasian subtype across the board

How about trying an equally diverse Caucasian set. Let's say: Sweden, France and Bulgaria (*).

(*)I know I am being mean to the poor AI - Bulgarians vary from a nordic sand blond to outright Mongoloid nearly Genghis Khan look alike. However, officially - they are all Caucasian.

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You won't find an equally diverse white set because there is far more diversity among black people than any other group - it is a small group of black people who moved north and became white.

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Anonymous Coward

I'm not sure if serious.

Many times it has been stated, there is more diversity and difference inside groups than there is between groups. So while we notice the differences of vast distant populations, we ignore through confirmation bias or social normality, the massive differences locally.

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"I wouldn't call it representative if there are no or very few people from the Indian subcontinent or east Asia, not to mention South America."

Beat me to it. Between them China and India cover over a third of the world's population. It looks more as though they deliberately took the extremes of some of the whitest and blackest populations they could find. Which is fair enough for a certain kind of testing, but can hardly be considered representative and is likely to paint things in a particularly bad light.

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Re: I'm not sure if serious.

Many times it has been stated, there is more diversity and difference inside groups than there is between groups.

That may be true for genotypes (it's actually an oversimplification), but it doesn't hold for phenotypes, particularly not when you're only considering a tiny subset of phenotypical data which the human brain has specifically evolved to evaluate (faces).

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Genetic diversity

Isn't 85% of all genetic diversity in humans found in Sub Sahara Africa (phenotype as well)? Remembering hearing that. Too lazy to get real reference but this wikipedia snippet will do for now.

"Sub-Saharan Africa has the most human genetic diversity and the same has been shown to hold true for phenotypic diversity.[36] Phenotype is connected to genotype through gene expression. Genetic diversity decreases smoothly with migratory distance from that region, which many scientists believe to be the origin of modern humans, and that decrease is mirrored by a decrease in phenotypic variation. Skull measurements are an example of a physical attribute whose within-population variation decreases with distance from Africa."

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Re: Genetic diversity

Isn't 85% of all genetic diversity in humans found in Sub Sahara Africa (phenotype as well)?

Most of the genome has no external phenotypical expression and whole-genome genetic distance does not necessarily correlate with phenotype as the variation in dog breeds and the quasi-canine appearance of hyaenas illustrates. Conversely, sub-saharan Africans and aboriginal Australasians have the greatest genetic distance but are often considered to be phenotypically similar.

Sub-saharan Africans do not have any Neanderthal or Denisovan genetic contribution (3-5% in everyone else) besides some rare instances of genetic backflow from the Levant. This impacts externally observable phenotype, particularly in terms of eye and probably hair colouration (plus the immune system, hair texture, respiratory metabolism and a number of other areas).

Human perceptions of phenotype are evolved to assess ingroup membership rather than genetic distance per se. That means the environmental (in human terms, cultural) aspect of phenotype is often of greater importance. For a human, how an individual dresses and behaves (e.g. a military uniform, prayer rituals) is part of the phenotype just as the exact design of a nest is for a bird.

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"I wouldn't call it representative if there are no or very few people from the Indian subcontinent or east Asia, not to mention South America."

Or Australian aborigines, or several other indigenous populations.

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Boffin

"officially - they are all Caucasian"

So are those from the middle east and Indian sub-continent; well at least back when I was in uni.

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Re: Genetic diversity

A lot of genetic variation can arise within hybrids of two different species.

It seems it happened in Sub Saharan Affie as well as in Europe, only with an older more primitive humanoid :

https://newatlas.com/ancient-ghost-species-human/50591/

Looks like Europe and Asia were subjected to high selectivity, because only a bit of the variation derived from Neanderthal / Denisovan mixing has survived

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"it is a small group of black people who moved north and became white."

I think you struck a nerve in some readers. 4 downvotes for a factually correct statement.

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The Out of Africa theory is controversial. As of today, the evidence for modern HS originating there is just the age of the oldest HS fossils

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Anonymous Coward

"B) Iceland, Finland, Sweden - same Caucasian subtype across the board"

If linguistic patterns dating back a long long long time - several thousand years at a minimum - are a clue, Finns and Swedes are very different groups... one would expect the Finns are more closely related to Siberians than Scandinavians.

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Anonymous Coward

"The Out of Africa theory is controversial. As of today, the evidence for modern HS originating there is just the age of the oldest HS fossils"

AFAIK, the only part of OoA that is controversial is the number and timings of the migrations.

A recent study showed that a second wave of OoA migration is sufficient to explain the replacement of the Neanderthals in Europe with Homo sap.

And yes, you are right, there seems to be absolutely no evidence for humans or protohumans in Europe before the OoA migrations.

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Skin tone is not binary with the meta groups

So was the correlation purely on darker skin tone as such, or was it actually caused by a correlation between darker skin tone and different facial characteristics that react less well to the identifying parameters used by the algo?

I suppose I could read the article, but that's too much of my time.

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