Rite Aid’s A.I. Facial Recognition Wrongly Tagged People of Color as Shoplifters


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By Eduardo Medina, New York Times

Under the terms of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, the pharmacy chain will be barred from using the technology as a surveillance tool for five years.

Rite Aid
“Rite Aid’s reckless use of facial surveillance systems left its customers facing humiliation and other harms,” a senior Federal Trade Commission official said.Credit…John Taggart for The New York Times

Rite Aid, the pharmacy chain, used facial recognition technology to falsely and disproportionately identify people of color and women as likely shoplifters, the Federal Trade Commission said on Tuesday, describing a system that embarrassed customers and raised new concerns about the biases baked into such technologies.

Under the terms of a settlement, Rite Aid will be barred from using facial recognition technology in its stores for surveillance purposes for five years, the F.T.C. said. The agency, which enforces federal consumer protection laws, appeared to be signaling just how seriously it would respond to concerns about facial recognition technology.

The F.T.C.’s 54-page complaint also shed light on how a once-theoretical worry — that human bias would bleed into artificial intelligence algorithms and amplify discrimination — has become a cause for concern in the real world.

Samuel Levine, the director of the F.T.C.’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement that “Rite Aid’s reckless use of facial surveillance systems left its customers facing humiliation and other harms.”

The New York Times has details.

AI may also worsen medical racism.

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