IBM Secretly Used Flickr Photos for Facial Recognition

Facial recognition technology at work at an electronics conference

IBM has been accused of using Flickr photos for a facial-recognition project, without the full consent of people in the images. They were a part of the YFCC100M, a dataset that consisted of 99.2 million photos and 0.8 million videos from Flickr. The images were protected under a Creative Commons license.

Sources told NBC that the photographers had asked them before taking their pictures, but did not specify that the images would be used to train algorithms.

Despite IBM's assurances that Flickr users can opt out of the database, NBC News discovered that it's nearly impossible to get photos removed.

In January, IBM revealed its new "Diversity in Faces" dataset with the goal to make facial recognition systems fairer and better at identifying a diverse range of faces - AI algorithms have had difficulty in the past recognising women and people of colour.

The only problem? The dataset isn't publicly available, only to researchers, so Flickr users and those featured in their images have no way of really knowing if they're included.

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He immediately went behind the goal where he picked up a bag containing a mask of the popular Marvel character Black Panther. He opened the scoring after a cutback from Aaron Ramsey in the opening five minutes to get Arsenal off to a flawless start.

The photos in IBM's dataset also do not include usernames or subject names, which would make it hard for people to identify people in photos.

Had people know that their photos might be used to train smart software, they may have been reticent to hand over their consent, as they could argue that facial recognition software trained to spot their mug is not only an invasion of privacy but could also lead them to them getting snooped on further on down the line. "NBC says that assertion contradicts IBM's admission on the dataset's release that it was in response to research by MIT's Joy Buolamwini, but Smith told Biometric Update that the objective of the dataset is to provide insights on the quality of datasets and questions like "(h) ow can we ensure that face image data is sufficiently diverse?" "You are laundering the IP and privacy rights out of the faces", he says.

NBC, which broke the story, has developed a tool to check if IBM has used your Flickr photos. It added, "Individuals can opt-out of this dataset".

The report comes as the ethical implications of AI and facial recognition are increasingly a subject of public debate, one that biometrics providers must heed and participate in, or risk the long-term viability of the industry.


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