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‘Data rights are civil rights’

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In 2015, MIT researcher Joy Buolamwini was developing a device called the Aspire Mirror. Onlookers would stare into a webcam and then see a reflection on their face of something that inspires them.

At least, that was the plan. But Buolamwini quickly noticed that the facial recognition software was struggling to track her face — until she put on a white mask.

Buolamwini began an investigation into algorithmic injustices that took her all the way to the US Congress. Her journey is the central thread in Coded Bias, a documentary directed by Shalini Kantayya that launched on Netflix this week.

“I didn’t know I actually had a film until Joy testified before Congress,” Kantayya tells TNW. “Then I knew that there was a character arc and an emotional journey there.”

[Read: How to use AI to better serve your customers]

While Buolamwini digs deeper into facial recognition’s biases, viewers are introduced to a range of researchers and activists who are fighting to expose algorithmic injustices.

We meet Daniel Santos, an award-winning teacher whose job is under threat because an algorithm deemed him ineffective; Trane Moran, who’s campaigning to remove a facial recognition system from her Brooklyn housing complex, and data scientist Cathy O’Neil, the author of Weapons of Math Destruction.

Credit: Coded Bias