University of Maryland professor wants to expose hidden AI bias, then use it for good – Baltimore Sun

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Lauren Rhue studies the fast-paced world of artificial intelligence and machine learning technology. But she wants everyone to slow down.

Rhue, assistant professor of information systems at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, recently audited emotion recognition technology within three facial recognition services: Amazon Rekognition, Face++ and Microsoft. His research revealed what Rhue called “really striking” racial disparities.

Amazon Rekognition is offered to other companies. Face++ is used in identity verification. Microsoft plans to stop using its facial recognition technology this year, including emotion recognition tools.

Rhue collected photos of black and white NBA players from the 2016 season, monitoring how much they smiled. She then ran those photos through facial recognition software.

In general, the models attributed more negative emotions to black players, Rhue found. Additionally, if players had ambiguous facial expressions, black players were more likely to be assumed to have a negative facial expression, while white players were more likely to be “given the benefit of the doubt”.

“I think we should all take a step back and think, do we need to analyze faces like this?” Rhue said.

Rhue, 39, is not the first to explore racial disparity in AI systems. For example, MIT graduate student Joy Buolamwini gave a TED talk about her experience with facial analysis software that couldn’t detect her face because the algorithm hadn’t been coded to identify a sufficiently large range. range of skin tones and facial structures.

“With the current enthusiasm for AI, it seems necessary to create a model for anything you can create a model for,” Rhue said. “But I would really like to see a bit more pause and reflection on ‘Do we need this? What does this bring to the table? ‘”

The use of facial recognition technology is spreading. The Port of Baltimore uses facial recognition technology to verify the identity of disembarking passengers. Utah-based HireVue conducts video interviews for potential employees and scores candidates’ faces and emotions as part of its application analysis. AI has been deployed to analyze emotions and body language to detect potential threats in crowds.

Some states limit the use of AI. California, for example, is considering restricting the use of AI to screen job applicants to avoid a “discriminatory impact.” In Illinois, employers must disclose when using AI tools in video interviews. Maryland has a similar law.

And last summer, the Baltimore City Council created a moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology, exempting the police department, until December.

And as AI seeps into all areas of society, Rhue just wants people — and businesses — to pause and think about the long-term effects.

“These types of systems are increasingly integrated into our, into our technology. We don’t always know them. We’re not always aware of how they’re being used,” Rhue said. “And I think it’s important to understand the potential for bias. And then the shift in my research is looking at human intervention to see if that makes it better, if people are able to compensate for that bias.

Rhue noted that in every situation, there must be a combination of AI tools and human intervention used to mitigate bias. She wants to anticipate the “negative and unforeseen consequences”.

And she thinks the rest of her field is also starting to prioritize this type of work. She said the death of George Floyd at the hands of police and subsequent calls for racial justice in 2020 sparked interest in understanding the struggles of marginalized communities and how technology can promote inclusion.

Jui Ramaprasad, an associate professor of information systems at the Maryland School of Business, works with Rhue and has known her since she was a doctoral student at New York University. She said the work Rhue is doing on biases in machine learning is some of the “most impactful work” in their field.

“I think she is doing work that she cares about because it affects her, it affects people in the community,” Ramaprasad said. “I think it’s really hard to be the person doing the work when you’re also a person facing this bias or discrimination in the environment that we live and work in.”

Despite the disparities she discovered, Rhue believes technology can be used for good. For example, Rhue researched crowdfunding on digital platforms with a focus on Kickstarter, which organizes campaigns based on staff interests. In an effort to highlight projects proposed by black creators, she found that using predictive models rather than relying on subjective human analysis increased recommendation rates for black projects without reducing the rate of success. success.

“I think there’s so much potential for technology to really have a positive impact on inclusion, and financial inclusion in particular,” Rhue said.

Outside of his research, Rhue teaches data visualization to undergraduate and master’s students. She previously taught at Wake Forest University.

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Rhue said she could see the impact she was having in the classroom. Students told her, including some graduate students, that she was the only black teacher they ever had. And she’s had other people tell her they want to pursue their own doctorate. because she made it possible.

Will Hawks is assistant professor of management at Nova Southeastern University Florida. Before that, he was a student of Rhue at Wake Forest.

Although Rhue isn’t her first black professor — Hawks once attended Florida A&M University, a historically black institution — seeing her on campus still made an impression.

“To see someone like you accomplish things you don’t think you can accomplish — it’s the impossible come true,” Hawks said. “Being a black, male teacher in this same industry now… our presence means so much more to them. And I know that because I’ve been in their place.

Hawks called Rhue a “game changer” for him. He has stayed in touch with her since graduating; he reached out to her when he was applying for college jobs and even recently invited her to join him in researching hate crimes known as the “Zoom bombings” and how how these incidents affect organizations and people. Hawks thinks Rhue changed the course of his life.

“You wouldn’t be talking to Dr. Will Hawks right now if I hadn’t crossed paths with Dr. Rhue,” Hawks said.

This article is part of our Newsmaker series, which features notable people from the Baltimore area who are impacting our diverse communities. If you would like to suggest someone who should be profiled, please send their name and a brief description of what they are doing to make a difference to: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Editor Kamau High at [email protected].

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