tech

Facial recognition technology struggles to see past gender binary

19 Comments
By Molly Millar

Facial recognition technology is failing to recognize transgender people new research has shown, raising concerns about discrimination as the use of the software becomes increasingly prevalent.

Researchers at the U.S. University of Colorado Boulder tested facial recognition systems from tech giants IBM, Amazon, Microsoft and Clarifai on photographs of trans men and found they were misidentified as women 38% of the time.

Cisgender women and men - or those who identify as their birth gender - were correctly identified 98.3% of the time and 97.6% of the time respectively.

The software also failed to recognize people who did not define themselves as male or female - also known as nonbinary, agender or genderqueer - 100% of the time.

The results highlight that even the most up-to-date technology only view gender in two set categories, the report's lead author Morgan Klaus Scheuerman said in a statement.

"While there are many different types of people out there, these systems have an extremely limited view of what gender looks like," Scheuerman said.

Facial recognition remains highly controversial but is gaining in use by police and immigration services. The market for the technology is predicted to double in the next 15 years, according to research group MarketsandMarkets.

Software that excludes trans and nonbinary people may prove discriminatory, rendering such persons invisible to a technology that is becoming increasingly incorporated into daily life.

Misidentification can even be actively harmful, such as at airport security where trans people are often subject to invasive body searches or harassment if their ID does not match their gender.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is currently rolling out facial recognition at airports across the United States.

A spokesman from LGBT+ group Stonewall said: "It's concerning to hear that facial recognition software is misgendering trans people. The experience of being deliberately misgendered is deeply hurtful for trans people.

"We would encourage technology developers to bring in and consult with trans communities to make sure their identity is being respected."

The study also suggested the software relies on outdated gender stereotypes in its facial analysis. Scheuerman, who is male with long hair, was categorized as female half of the time.

"When you walk down the street you might look at someone and presume that you know what their gender is, but that is a really quaint idea from the '90s and it is not what the world is like anymore," said senior author Jed Brubaker, an assistant professor of Information Science.

"As our vision and our cultural understanding of what gender is has evolved, the algorithms driving our technological future have not. That's deeply problematic."

© Thomson Reuters Foundation

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

19 Comments
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Science has consistently proven that men (XY genes) and women (XX genes) are fundamentally different, in terms of brain function, body structure and facial structure. Now technology is verifying that but SWJs are angry because their precious house of cards narrative of identity is collapsing.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Technology is not going to respect human social constructs unless/until it's programmed to.

Doing so would add overhead, likely significant, to the processing power required to do so.

There would need to be a good reason to put forth the additional time, money and effort required to develop such functionality, as well as provide the processing power to do it. What is the use-case for this software? That would determine whether or not such functionality is necessary.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Technology is not going to respect human social constructs

Thanks for confirming what the rest of us already knew, gender "identity" is nothing more than a social construct, it's a figment of imagination, and has no biological or scientific basis.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Thanks for confirming what the rest of us already knew, gender "identity" is nothing more than a social construct, it's a figment of imagination, and has no biological or scientific basis.

I think that's "their" argument mate.

You didn't think that through, did you.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

All discrimination is not equal. Some types are much worse than others. The most important thing is to eradicate the worse types, not equate to minor things with major ones and jump down people's throats.

"You can't work here if you are transgender" = BAD

"Oh, I thought you were a man" = not so bad. Possibly no worse than asking a young looking 25 year old for ID before serving them alcohol.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Its always a half funny and half amusing discussion. You really have to appreciate how some hold that nature does make mistakes with such things as deformities and Down's, but when it comes to the male and female brain the plumbing is ALWAYS a match and nature NEVER fails.

It has been proven that most men have an energy use fluctuating brain while women tend to have an energy use stable brain. But the science of the brain is truly in its infancy. We don't know what truly makes a brain male or female, whether its nature,nurture or a combination, but the fact that some people cannot see or perhaps refuse to see the stark differences is sometimes quite astounding.

Given the severe problems associated with being trans, its only going to be a minority of masochists or people with other mental problems claiming to be one.

But as ever, its hard to tell if the naysayers are really that thick or just trolling for selfish amusement.

Anyway, yeah, facial recognition software (product of the anti-Christ) is not going to be able to determine your inner gender. Sorry. Everyone just needs to get freaking real about that.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Now people know how to beat facial recognition software

This is a flaw in the software that they can exploit

Computers are only as good as what the engineers put in it - if what the engineers put in are no good, then the resulting computers are no good

In other words, if ya program computers to recognize only males and females, then the computers will only recognize males and females. Computers are not some kind of magic - it's what ya put in that determines what ya get out of it

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"Facial recognition technology struggles to see past objective reality". Well yeah, of course it does.

In other news, a piece of software designed to distinguish between apples and oranges struggles with classifying apples wrapped in orange peels. The self-evident outcome surprises literally no one.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

they were misidentified as women 38% of the time

That might beat my wife and my's misidentification stats. We frequently nudge each other for verification, but often have no idea. If humans can't visually recognize gender, how can we expect machines to do so?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Interesting, but not so important - the purpose of facial recognition being to identify a person, not their swing.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Cool! I just need to glam up or grow a ponytail before going places where there are lots of cameras and unwanted tracking. Good to know.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"When you walk down the street you might look at someone and presume that you know what their gender is, but that is a really quaint idea from the '90s and it is not what the world is like anymore," said senior author Jed Brubaker, an assistant professor of Information Science.

99% of the time you can accurately identify someone’s gender with a single glance.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It might be difficult for face recognition tech to identify transgender people, but it is easy to recognize that transgender women are dominating biological women in sport and athletics.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

its only going to be a minority of masochists or people with other mental problems claiming to be one.

I need to clarify my own statement there. Most people claiming to be trans are in fact, trans. Only a tiny minority who aren't really but claim to be anyway, have other mental problems or are severe masochists.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

99% of the time you can accurately identify someone’s gender with a single glance.

Or so you think, without doing an actual thorough investigation. Anyway, I believe you are speaking of biological gender there. Psychological gender can usually determined by how they dress, use of make-up, how they walk, etc. but I think its a bit less accurate given those who choose or feel forced to hide their inner gender.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

99% of the time you can accurately identify someone’s gender with a single glance.

That number drops significantly in Thailand.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Thought it may be useful to see the TSA's web page

https://transequality.org/know-your-rights/airport-security

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Or so you think, without doing an actual thorough investigation. Anyway, I believe you are speaking of biological gender there. Psychological gender can usually determined by how they dress, use of make-up, how they walk, etc. but I think its a bit less accurate given those who choose or feel forced to hide their inner gender.

There are only biological gender, and disorders. The 1% accounts for people who (sometimes dress to) appear non gender specific with clothes, hair styles, etc.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

That number drops significantly in Thailand

I admit I have had to take a close look at some photos to know. Even then...

But yes, you’re right!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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