Researchers call for regulation of facial recognition, AI tools

(Bloomberg) --A research group run by employees from technology companies including Google and Microsoft Corp. called for more regulation of facial recognition and other artificial intelligence tools.

AI Now, a group affiliated with New York University, released a report Thursday warning about the dangers of the nascent technology used in fields such as policing, finance and education. The report joins growing demands for policies to cover the unintended consequences of the technology. Later on Thursday, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith will discuss what type of regulation may be needed for facial recognition AI during a speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

In its report, AI Now said outside groups should audit the AI services that governments use, such as automated decision-making software and facial recognition systems. To spur this kind of audit, AI Now is calling for government vendors to waive claims to trade secrecy. In particular, the report raises alarms about AI applications that claim to read people's emotions and mental well-being, called affect recognition.

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An attendee takes a photograph of the Apple Inc. iPhone X during an event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. Apple Inc. unveiled its most important new iPhone for years to take on growing competition from Samsung Electronics Co., Google and a host of Chinese smartphone makers. The device, coming a decade after the original model, is Apple's first major redesign since 2014 and represents a significant upgrade to the iPhone 7 line. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

"These tools are very suspect and based on faulty science," said Kate Crawford, a co-founder of the group who works for Microsoft Research. "You cannot have black box systems in core social services."

AI Now has released similar reports in the past. This year, though, its positions have far more support from inside the largest tech companies. Staff at Microsoft, Amazon.com Inc. and other firms have taken rare steps to oppose company efforts to sell AI services to the government. Internal protests at Google ended a Pentagon contract, which prompted the company to publish ethical guidelines on the use of its AI.

"There is no longer a question of whether there are issues with accountability," said AI Now co-founder Meredith Whittaker, who works at Google. "It's what we do about it." Both AI Now founders said the work for the group was separate from their corporate roles.