Coded Bias: Unmasking the Abuses of Face Recognition Technologies in Society

Film poster for Coded Bias

Opening event of Aalto University’s new Color of Science public series sponsored by the School of Science.

Modern society sits at the intersection of two crucial questions: What does it mean when artificial intelligence increasingly governs our liberties? And what are the consequences for the people AI is biased against?  In the new documentary film Coded Bias, MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini discovers that most facial-recognition software does not accurately identify darker-skinned faces and the faces of women, so she delves into an investigation of widespread bias in algorithms.  As it turns out, artificial intelligence is not neutral, and often women of color are leading the charge to ensure our civil rights are protected.  The Algorithmic Justice LeagueBlack in AI and Data for Black Lives are creating a movement towards equitable and accountable AI with data justice.

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Prof. Nitin Sawhney leads a conversation with filmmaker Shalini Kantayya, to highlight the themes and issues emerging from the film, along with AI ethics experts and invited members of the film cast (TBA).

The event will be held in conjunction with a week-long virtual screening of the film Coded Bias hosted by Aalto University from March 20-27, 2021. Please RSVP for this event and all registered attendees will receive online access to the virtual film screening.

Speakers currently confirmed

  • Shalini Kantayya

Filmmaker Shalini Kantayya’s, Coded Bias, premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim. She directed the season finale of the National Geographic television series Breakthrough, Executive Produced by Ron Howard, broadcast globally in June 2017. Her debut, Catching the Sun, premiered at the LA Film Festival and was named a NY Times Critics’ Pick. Catching the Sun released globally on Netflix on Earth Day 2016 with Executive Producer Leonardo DiCaprio, and was nominated for the Environmental Media Association Award for Best Documentary.  Kantayya is a TED Fellow, a William J. Fulbright Scholar, and an Associate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. 

  • Nitin Sawhney (Host)

Nitin Sawhney is a Professor of Practice in the Department of Computer Science at Aalto University. As a human-centered design researcher he examines the critical role of technology, civic media, and urban interventions in crisis and contested spaces.  He has co-directed two documentary films, Flying Paper, an award-winning film supported by National Geographic, about culture of kite-flying among children in Gaza despite the war, and Zona Intervenida, a performance-based documentary dealing with the historical memory of genocide in Guatemala.  At Aalto University, Nitin has embarked on a collaborative research project with THL on Reconstructing Crisis Narratives, supported by a 3-year grant from the Academy of Finland.

  • Sid Rao

Sid Rao is a public interest technologist. He is a researcher at Aalto University and Nokia-Bell Labs. He was a Ford-Mozilla Open Web Fellow at European Digital Rights (EDRi) where he worked with policy makers and lobbyists from the Brussels bubble towards bringing practical understanding to European political debate around privacy, data protection, and surveillance. He collaborates regularly with various NGOs on internet freedom and digital rights topics.

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Color of Science is a university-wide initiative engaging critical perspectives from scientists of color and the indigenous, co-organized by Talayeh Aledavood, Andrea Botero, Karin Fröhlich, Caterina Soldano and Nitin Sawhney.

This event is co-organized with the new Crisis Interrogatives initiative at Aalto University and held in conjunction with the course Critical AI and Data Justice in Society, offered in the Department of Computer Science in spring 2021.

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