Google is attempting to find a new way to measure people’s skin tones, to prevent its products from becoming “biased” against “people of color,” according to a report in Reuters.
Dermatologists have used the six-color Fitzpatrick Skin Type scale to determine skin color since the 1970s. But Google thinks it can do a better, more racially equitable job.
Critics say FST, which includes four categories for “white” skin and one apiece for “black” and “brown,” disregards diversity among people of color. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, during a federal technology standards conference last October, recommended abandoning FST for evaluating facial recognition because it poorly represents color range in diverse populations.
In response to Reuters’ questions about FST, Google, for the first time and ahead of peers, said that it has been quietly pursuing better measures.
“We are working on alternative, more inclusive, measures that could be useful in the development of our products, and will collaborate with scientific and medical experts, as well as groups working with communities of color,” the company said, declining to offer details on the effort.
Breitbart News has previously reported on “machine learning fairness” — the attempt to merge the fields of computer science and artificial intelligence with Critical Race Theory. Reuters notes that Google’s efforts to “de-bias” its services have much wider implications, in fields like law enforcement and healthcare.
The controversy is part of a larger reckoning over racism and diversity in the tech industry, where the workforce is more white than in sectors like finance. Ensuring technology works well for all skin colors, as well different ages and genders, is assuming greater importance as new products, often powered by artificial intelligence (AI), extend into sensitive and regulated areas such as healthcare and law enforcement.
Companies know their products can be faulty for groups that are under-represented in research and testing data. The concern over FST is that its limited scale for darker skin could lead to technology that, for instance, works for golden brown skin but fails for espresso red tones.
Breitbart News has previously reported on Google’s preoccupation with race. A company whistleblower told Breitbart in 2017 that Google’s senior leaders focus “on diversity first and technology second.”
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.