Neural Network Learns to Identify Criminals by Their Faces

Neural Network Learns to Identify Criminals by Their Faces

Published By: MIT Technology Review, 11/22/2016

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Researchers from Jiao Tong University in China have applied facial recognition algorithms to guess whether a person has a criminal history based upon their unique set of facial features. The algorithms achieved nearly 90% accuracy. Questions arise around the legality and ethics of how such a technology might be applied.

Content Advisory

The article raises questions about criminal profiling that may be sensitive for some students.

Extended Discussion Questions

  • What are some pros and cons to having these algorithms implemented with camera data collected from public places? Think of airports, malls, schools, etc.
  • How is this issue similar to other debates about how facial recognition software (in general) should be used? What problems are unique to identification of potential criminals?
  • Should police or the government be allowed to run software that categorizes people as potential criminals en masse, using available photos? Should they wait for a crime to be committed, or should they profile people based upon their facial features and take preemptive action?
  • The research was inspired by scientific findings that people are pretty good at guessing criminals from photos. Does this justify teaching computers to do the same? Why or why not?

Global Impact Learning Objectives:

  • LO 7.3.1 Analyze the beneficial and harmful effects of computing.
  • LO 7.4.1 Explain the connections between computing and real-world contexts, including economic, social, and cultural contexts.

Global Impact Essential Knowledge:

  • EK 7.3.1A Innovations enabled by computing raise legal and ethical concerns.
  • EK 7.3.1G Privacy and security concerns arise in the development and use of computational systems and artifacts.
  • EK 7.3.1J Technology enables the collection, use, and exploitation of information about, by, and for individuals, groups, and institutions.

Other CSP Big Ideas:

  • Idea 4 Algorithms

Banner Image: “Network Visualization – Violet – Offset Crop”, derivative work by ICSI. New license: CC BY-SA 4.0. Based on “Social Network Analysis Visualization” by Martin Grandjean. Original license: CC BY-SA 3.0

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