Macy’s Catches A Case Over Misuse Of Facial Recognition AI

CBx Vibe: “Watching Me” Jill Scott

By CultureBanx Team

  • Macy’s is being sued over its use of Clearview AI’s facial recognition technology
  • Facial recognition systems have an error rate of 34.7% for dark-skin women

Macy’s (M +3.16%) has been hit with a consumer privacy suit in Illinois over its use of Clearview AI’s facial recognition technology. The retailer has compiled information of more than 6,000 customers in its database, according to the lawsuit. This is one of the first lawsuits against users of the controversial facial-recognition software as people look to ensure the technology which has higher error rates for African Americans, does not invade personal privacy or become a tool for discrimination or surveillance.

Why This Matters: Some AI tools, especially facial recognition apps, violate privacy laws. The potential for abuse of facial recognition technology could lead to incidents of racial profiling. Research shows commercial artificial intelligence systems tend to have higher error rates for women and black people. Some facial recognition systems would only confuse light-skin men 0.8% of the time and would have an error rate of 34.7% for dark-skin women. A glitch like this could lead to bias among minorities and immigrants. Google (GOOG -0.71%) and Facebook (FB -0.02%) have both demanded Clearview cease using images from their sites.

The retailer has compiled information of more than 6,000 customers in its database

Clearview’s software allows users to try to match a face against a database of images it scrapes from the internet, including sites like YouTube and Facebook. When a company like Macy’s uploads photos of customers from security footage, the Clearview platform then provides the company access to their personal details, including names, home addresses and work addresses. Though it is marketed primarily as a tool for law enforcement, the New York Times and Buzzfeed News reported earlier in the year that it had also been used by several major retailers.

Situational Awareness: Although Clearview AI is not named in this lawsuit, it has previously sold its technology to thousands of companies including Walmart (WMT +0.57%), Bank of America (BAC +0.46%), and Macy’s to collect and store biometric data without consent. Back in May, the company claimed it would no longer sell to private organizations.

CBx Vibe: “Watching Me” Jill Scott

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CultureBanx Team

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