Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D, Mich.) doubled down on her uninformed and controversial statements about facial recognition technology (FRT). We discussed Tlaib’s earlier call for the Detroit Police Chief to hire only African Americans to use FRT. That bizarre call was denounced as racist by Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who is black, and said that he would not adopt a race-based hiring program for FRT. Now, Tlaib has written an oped going further and demanding a ban on the use of FRT. In her op-ed in The Detroit News, Tlaib denounced FRT as “racist technology.”
I recently spoke to the federal biometric conference in Tampa and have two academic works to be published on FRT and privacy protections. Those pieces address the suggestion of racist discrimination errors in FRT.
As noted earlier, the comments reflected a fundamental misunderstanding of FRT. The point of FRT is that the algorithms makes the identification. Training concerns issues like lighting, framing, and operation. It is a contraction of terms to have the operator make the identification. The error rate found by a MIT study is discussed in my forthcoming study on privacy and biometrics. It is important for the industry to remain focused on this issue to continue to address any racial error rates. However, great strides have occurred in the technology.
Rather than correct her earlier comments, Tlaib has magnified her error with this proposal based on a flawed understanding of the current technology and realities of FRT.