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Learned-Miller Offers Online Q&A on Face Recognition and Regulation

Erik Learned-Miller

Award-winning facial recognition expert professor Erik Learned-Miller of the College of Information and Computer Sciences will offer a one-hour Zoom Q&A webinar at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, July 15, where he will explore face recognition research. He will also discuss a new proposed solution for regulating the young technology, one that is prone to errors and misuse. The event is free and open to the public; space is limited and registration is required for the webinar link.

A troubling example of recent facial recognition problems was recently reported by the “New York Times.” It reports that in January, an African American man named Robert Williams was arrested for allegedly committing a crime. He had been incorrectly identified by a face recognition algorithm. The police used the faulty match as conclusive evidence despite being explicitly instructed not to rely on the automated technology alone, Learned-Miller says – exactly the nightmare scenario that many concerned citizens and advocacy groups have been worried about.

In the webinar sponsored by the Center for Data Science, Learned-Miller will discuss how we got to today and what should be done about. He will also consider whether all face recognition technology should be banned, or whether there is a way for society to benefit from its proper use while protecting against abuses and errors.

In June, Learned-Miller and colleagues at MIT’s Media Lab, the University of Virginia, and the University of Washington issued a white paper, “Facial Recognition Technologies in the Wild: A Call for a Federal Office,” in which they argue that the recent rash of city and state restrictions and proposed federal legislation are not enough to address the risks posed by these technologies. Instead, the authors call for a new, broader approach based on an FDA-inspired model for managing facial recognition technologies at the federal level.

In 2019, Learned-Miller and two others received an award from the International Conference on Computer Vision for work on one of the most influential face datasets in computer vision, “Labeled Faces in the Wild.” In 1989, he co-founded CORITechs, Inc., where he co-developed the second FDA-cleared system for image-guided neurosurgery. He joined the UMass Amherst faculty in 2004.

This article originally appeared in Inside UMass.