Linked: Wrongfully Accused by an Algorithm

This is easy to believe, from the story linked at the bottom of this post.

““I strongly suspect this is not the first case to misidentify someone to arrest them for a crime they didn’t commit. This is just the first time we know about it.””

The thing is, there are still way too many people who will read this article and think to themselves “He was released, no harm.”

Except there was harm. He spent 30 hours in custody. There is an arrest record with his fingerprints and DNA included. He was arrested in front of his house, for the whole neighborhood to see.

And he was lucky in some regards. As the article points out, large black men getting arrested don’t always survive that encounter. But, setting that issue aside, he had vacation days he could use to appear in court, a wife to come take him home after being released, and money to pay the bond necessary to do so. Not everyone has that. In fact, for a lot of people the arrest causing them to miss work would have left them without a job. A lack of funds to pay the bond would have left them in lockup, and the missed time working and probably getting fired over it may leave them homeless when they finally do get the mistake corrected.

Assuming it even gets corrected in the first place. Let’s take a moment to read another article?

The Purgatory of Digital Punishment

This article is specific to another type of problem, online criminal records available to anyone doing a background check, with no oversight as to their accuracy.

All of this “data” is marked with rampant error and misleading information. Records now begin at the very early stages of arrest and extend across a person’s entire lifetime, whether or not they are found guilty. As records are downloaded, sold, and shared, they quickly become decontextualized and stale. This proliferation leads to a particular form of anxiety: Criminal record subjects are nearly always uncertain about where their records can be found and what will appear on them, even if charges were dismissed or their record sealed or expunged by the courts. Often, a person never knows what is on her criminal record because there isn’t one single criminal record to consult. The internet’s version is often wildly different than the state’s version.

So, in this situation, that arrest record can probably be located, totally out of context, by anyone needing to approve this gentleman for a job, apartment, etc.

How many of those cases are out there, caused by a bad facial recognition match, that we don’t know about?

Still think the “computer mistake” was harmless? It’s not harmless, and nothing that I’ve seen when it comes to using facial recognition leads me to believe the technology is not creating a ton of false positives, and from there, who knows how much damage to a person’s life? And, though I shouldn’t have to mention it, I will. What group of people is most likely to have had some sort of engagement with law enforcement, thus some random criminal record over something they didn’t do, or some very minor offense now taken out of context, that also happens to be one of the groups most likely to be misidentified by current facial recognition algorithms which will lead to even more of these types of records getting created?

Yeah, the same ones already incarcerated at a ridiculously high rate. How’s that working out?


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