How a flawed biometrics research project exposed AI ethical issues, singled out LGBTQ+ individuals

by | Oct 10, 2022 | Technology

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Last year was a grim, record-setting year for violence against transgender individuals, and the Human Rights Campaign is tracking data that shows 2022 is on a similar pace. Outside of physical violence, other forms of attacks can harm these individuals as well. Some of that harm stems from enterprise technology, specifically around issues such as data privacy, facial recognition, artificial intelligence (AI) training and surveillance.

The use of biometrics in particular is quickly growing as a sector of the technology landscape. A report from the Biometrics Institute found that, “More than 90% of industry professionals agreed that biometrics will be the key enabler for anchoring digital identity and that there will continue to be significant growth in mobile remote identity verification systems and remote onboarding technology.”  

But, as this technology grows, severe AI ethical problems both in training it and in applying it to use-cases continue to emerge.

Misuse of data

A research team led by professor Karl Ricanek at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington worked — several years back — to develop a facial recognition system from transition videos that transgender individuals had uploaded to YouTube for inter-community support and information. Ricanek and his team were building the facial recognition system, propelled by a claim that hormone replacement therapy treatments (HRT) might be used by criminals and terrorists illicitly to dodge surveillance system detection.

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The purpose of the research itself has since drawn criticism from experts like Os Key …

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