In the last few years, companies have started using such race-detection software to understand how certain customers use their products, who looks at their ads, or what people of different racial groups like. Others use the tool to seek different racial features in stock photography collections, typically for ads, or in security, to help narrow down the search for someone in a database. In China, where face tracking is widespread, surveillance cameras have been equipped with race-scanning software to track ethnic minorities. The field is still developing, and it is an open question how companies, governments and individuals will take advantage of such technology in the future. Use of the software is fraught, as researchers and companies have begun to recognize its potential to drive discrimination, posing challenges to widespread adoption.
SAN FRANCISCO – When Liz O'Sullivan was hired at the New York City-based artificial intelligence company Clarifai in 2017, she felt lucky to find work at the intersection of two of her main interests: technology and ethics. Two years later, she found herself facing a moral dilemma. Clarifai was developing aerial photography and object detection tools as one of several companies working on Project Maven, a Pentagon drone surveillance program. After several conversations with friends and colleagues, O'Sullivan realized this type of technology eventually could be used for autonomous weapons. In January, she wrote to Clarifai CEO Matt Zeiler on behalf of a group of employees, seeking clarification on whether the technology would be used to create weapons and asking him to commit to a series of ethical measures.
Drones are becoming more common in our skies, performing a variety of tasks, from taking photos to monitoring crops and potentially even delivering broadband. But there are strict rules about their usage, which has led some to come up with innovative ways to fly such vehicles more safely. "I'm using a dog leash for a small dog," says roboticist Sergei Lupashin as he demonstrates a new kind of consumer-friendly drone at the Ted (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference in Vancouver. By tethering it, he hopes the Fotokite, as it is called, can avoid some of the issues faced by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which are banned without a special licence because of safety and privacy concerns. "It doesn't rely on GPS [ Global Positioning System], sophisticated machine vision, radio, it doesn't even use a compass.