A Consumer Reports investigation finds technology can discriminate. While tech is meant to improve our lives, Consumer Reports found it can contain hidden biases that result in unfair practices toward communities of color.
For decades, people of color were kept out of home ownership — a practice called redlining. Though this practice is now illegal, Consumer Reports Investigative Reporter Brian Vines said the results have not changed.
“The information used in redlining has largely been fed into new algorithms that are essentially doing the same kind of thing without the racist overtones,” Vines said.
A new Consumer Reports documentary series called “Bad Input” sheds light on the ways in which technology is failing — in home lending, medicine, facial recognition, and security — which raises the question: Can technology be racist?
WATCH: Consumer Reports’ Documentary Series “Bad Input”
“The answer is yes,” said Vines. “Frankly, tech can be racist. If tech is fed bad information, it will continue to give us bad outputs.”
During the pandemic, pulse oximeters helped save lives. But a study done by experts at the University of Michigan showed that the technology was not as accurate for Black patients versus white patients.
“People of color were presenting and getting wrong readings. It delayed the care that they were able to receive and could really have some dire consequences if you’re showing up and your blood oxygen level is incorrect,” Vines said.
You may not notice it, but facial recognition technology can be found everywhere — on your phone, at the self-check-out at a store, or standing in line at an event and security is scanning.
“We’ve seen cases across the country of people being misidentified and facing criminal charges,” said Vines.
You can watch a trailer for “Bad Input” below:
Consumer Reports says there are ways to use technology more responsibly by limiting some activities including:
- Posting pictures of yourself or family on social media
- Joining a public Wifi network
- Signing up for something where you have to enter personal information