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The AI firm that turned down the CIA: Emotion sensing company’s founder warns authoritarian regimes could use tech ‘to root out dissent’

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July 4, 2018

When a CIA-backed venture capital fund took an interest in Rana el Kaliouby’s face-scanning technology for detecting emotions, the computer scientist and her colleagues did some soul-searching – and then turned down the money.

‘We’re not interested in applications where you’re spying on people,’ said el Kaliouby, the CEO and co-founder of the Boston startup Affectiva.

The company has trained its artificial intelligence systems to recognize if individuals are happy or sad, tired or angry, using a photographic repository of more than 6 million faces.

Recent advances in AI-powered computer vision have accelerated the race for self-driving cars and powered the increasingly sophisticated photo-tagging features found on Facebook and Google.

But as these prying AI ‘eyes’ find new applications in store checkout lines, police body cameras and war zones, the tech companies developing them are struggling to balance business opportunities with difficult moral decisions that could turn off customers or their own workers.

El Kaliouby said it’s not hard to imagine using real-time face recognition to pick up on dishonesty – or, in the hands of an authoritarian regime, to monitor reaction to political speech in order to root out dissent.

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This article was posted: Wednesday, July 4, 2018 at 7:56 am

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