TRENTON, NJ – You may have not noticed it, but Google employs racially-biased technology in its software and applications. At least that’s what New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker says. In a letter penned to Google, Booker said he and his fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill feel the company’s algorithms are racist. In a nutshell, when you Google something, too many pictures of white folks show up.
We tested that theory by Googling “woman” and “man” and the results appear pretty diverse. In fact, most likely exatly equal to the total racial profile of America. Both searches yielded people of all colors, shapes and backgrounds. Taking it one step further, if you Google “white women” the page is just as diverse as a non-racial search. After a few minutes we stopped our own independent research because we realized how utterly nonsensical the entire thing is.
Not for Spartacus.
“Civil and digital rights organizations and researchers have long raised concerns about how racial bias gets baked into the development and deployment of technology and can perpetuate discriminatory harms,” Booker wrote. “These deficiencies in technology products are a direct result of the decisions of whether and how to build the technology, and these decisions often reflect the characteristics of the workforce and the workplace where the technology was created. “
Booker said Democrats are concerned, after hearing reports about the company and its products, about harmful bias at Alphabet, the parent company of Google.
“Issues with Google search algorithms returning non-diverse image sets for basic searches and the more recent dermatology diagnosis algorithm that was not trained on dark skin tones are troubling. Other companies are grappling with these same concerns and, after a campaign led by Color of Change, Airbnb conducted the first comprehensive civil rights audit of its kind in 2016,” the racially charged Senator decreed. “After pressure from advocates and congressional leaders, including signers of this letter, Facebook completed a civil rights audit in 2020 as well. While only first steps, both of these audits are instrumental in creating a roadmap to help address bias. To that end we urge Alphabet to conduct a racial equity audit and to use the investigation and recommendations to make the company and its products safer for Black people.”
Booker told Google, “Be Better”.
“Alphabet must take steps to improve racial equity both internally and in their products. We are concerned about repeated instances where Alphabet missed the mark and did not proactively ensure its products and workplaces were safe for Black people. Google Search, its ad algorithm, and YouTube have all been found to perpetuate racist stereotypes and white nationalist viewpoints,” Booker said. “For example, last year it was found Google’s Cloud Vision image recognition tool was labeling images of a thermometer held by light skinned people as “electronic device” and while labeling them as “gun” when held by dark skinned people”
Google’s algorithms are reinforcing racial stereotypes Booker claims.
“We are concerned algorithms will rely on data that reinforces negative stereotypes and either exclude people from seeing ads for housing, employment, credit, and education or show only predatory opportunities,” Booker said. “As Congress and the federal government do more to protect communities of color from civil rights violations online, companies need to do their part by examining areas for improvement and ensuring their workplaces are safe for members of these communities. Alphabet must work with an outside and independent auditing team with civil rights and legal expertise to identify intervention points for better equitable practices and policies at your company to lay the groundwork for equitable technology development and deployment.”