Human rights groups say Zoom should eliminate ‘scary’ emotion tracking feature

Human rights and privacy groups are demanding that video chat giant Zoom shrug off its “scary” plan to use artificial intelligence to track and analyze human emotions as “pseudoscience.”

The news comes after tech site Protocol reported that Zoom plans to start selling products designed to detect the emotional states of participants in video calls.

For example, technology can use a person’s facial expressions and tone of voice to tell whether that person is happy, sad, or impatient. Booster of the feature says it can help salespeople close deals and monitor companies to see if their employees are happy.

But in an open letter published Tuesday, more than two dozen activist groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argued that so-called “emotion detection” software “doesn’t work.”

Zoom CEO Eric Yuan
The ACLU and other groups called on Zoom CEO Eric Yuan to put an end to the controversial technology.
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zoom sign on building
Zoom became an investor favorite in 2020, but its shares have fallen 69% over the past year.
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The groups wrote to Zoom CEO Eric Yuan, “Facial expressions are often indistinguishable from bottom-up emotions, and research has found that even humans sometimes cannot accurately read or measure the emotions of others. ”

The groups also warned that the technology is “dangerous” and “inherently biased”, posing a risk of discriminating against minority groups.

“These devices assume that all people use the same facial expressions, voice patterns and body language – but this is not true,” the groups warned. “Adding this feature would discriminate against people of certain races and disabilities, hardcoding the stereotype across millions of devices.”

In addition, the groups said sentiments about the harvesting of personal data risked companies that make use of the software a target for hackers and abusive governments.

people on zoom call
“Facial expressions often diverge from sentiments below,” advocates wrote to Zoom CEO Eric Yuan.
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The letter echoes concerns raised by researchers at New York University’s AI Now Institute, who wrote in a 2019 study that emotion detection technology “lacks scientific consensus as to whether it can ensure accurate or valid results.” is.”

Zoom did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company’s alleged push to gauge sentiment comes amid a severe stock downturn.

After becoming an investor favorite during the lockdown in 2020, shares of Zoom have fallen 69% in the past year as students and white-collar workers have returned to work individually.

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