Algorithmic Injustice: The Increased Prevalence of Biased Code in Courts and Law Enforcement

By: Noelle Symanski Algorithms and artificial intelligence, more specifically machine learning, are technologies that have seen increased use in many professional fields. We use this technology to make Google searches, swipe on online dating profiles, predict stock prices, and even control traffic lights. As algorithms become ubiquitous across fields, these programs have also made their way into the criminal justice system. Law enforcement agencies and courts have begun using technology to drive practices such as suspect identification and sentencing. It is tempting to view a computer algorithm as an objective series of code that spits out an unbiased result. The reality is far different. In late 2016, Amazon launched a facial recognition tool called “Rekognition.” In May 2018, the ACLU found that the program incorrectly matched 28 members of Congress to individuals convicted of crimes. The research indicated that, “[n]early 40 percent of Rekognition’s…

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