Blog Post

Exploring Facial Recognition

Did you participate in the recent #10YearChallenge on Facebook or Instagram? The challenge, also dubbed #HowHardDidAgingHitYou, involved posting a photo of yourself from 2009 beside another of yourself from 2019. Just for kicks, I posted my dog Bowie’s images on Instagram. Bowie is not allowed on Facebook, but he has grown from a timid and scared shelter dog to a happy, healthy and spirited soul who sits in flower pots for a better view of the yard:
 

Dog


The challenge was all fun and games, and a wave of hilarious memes emerged. Then Kate O’Neill posted a tweet suggesting that this might be an attempt to neatly and efficiently collect personal data from people. Media outlets began covering the topic and a national debate was sparked: was this fun and seemingly harmless challenge worth the potential privacy risks? How many of us had posted without even considering the possible effects?

The media attention provides an opportunity to engage in dialogue with students about data privacy and biometrics. Below are links to sample lesson plans that can help your students delve more deeply into the issues around facial recognition. These would mesh well with units on cybersecurity, data collection, or impacts of computing:

Joy Buolamwini

Joy Buolamwini

Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Joy_Buolamwini_-_Wikimania_2018_01.jpg
 

Also consider sharing with your students the story of Joy Buolamwini, an MIT grad student who is fighting passionately to reduce racial and gender bias in artificial intelligence (including facial recognition software). Buolamwini is the founder of the Algorithmic Justice League. In his recent blog post, Community Ambassador Donald Saint-Germain discussed how he screened her TED Talk with his students.

And here are a few articles to spark additional discussions with your students:

Do you talk about facial recognition in your classes? Please share with our community!

 

Jenn Vermillion is the Director of Innovative Learning at St. Catherine’s School, an independent school for girls age 3 through grade 12 in Richmond, VA. She teaches an introduction to computer science course for students in grades 9-12 and an 8th grade Creative Technologies course. She also coaches a 4th grade Robotics team and coordinates school-wide professional development. Jenn welcomes your comments and questions at jvermillion@st.catherines.org.