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Your Boss Wants to Spy on Your Inner Feelings

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Your Boss Wants to Spy on Your Inner Feelings

Tech companies now use AI to analyze your feelings in job interviews and public spaces. But the software is prone to racial, cultural and gender bias

Scientific American,

5 min read
7 take-aways
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What's inside?

Emotion AI software proliferates in public spaces, cars and homes – but its data holds deep biases.

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Cameras and sensors that feed vocal tones, facial expressions and body language images into elaborate “emotion AI” systems proliferate in today’s society. They are used by marketers, employers, schools and medical institutions. Although the technology has existed for decades, its recent insidious explosion raises concerns because of gender, racial, cultural and other dangerous biases baked into AI training data.


“Emotion AI” or “affective computing” combines cameras and sensors with AI to analyze people’s attitudes and feelings.

Texas-based Zenus uses emotion AI technology to capture images of body language, voice intonation and facial expressions to identify an individual’s motivations, potential behavior and emotions for marketing purposes. The technology can record reactions to products and events.

Some systems are used to assess intentions and character traits in order to evaluate job applicants, monitor classrooms or assess checkpoint threats. Automakers are installing AI systems in cars to gauge aggressive driving. Microsoft, Google and Amazon are offering cloud-based AI services, bundled with face recognition software. South Korean job coaches routinely instruct clients to rehearse AI-enhanced interviews.

Emotion AI reshapes hiring practices, business decisions and interactions with organizations.

Some businesses use AI to identify ideal hires, downplaying the “capricious nature” of basing hiring decisions on recruiters’ personal preferences. One system used by the small company Airtame analyzed the voice and facial expressions...

About the Author

John McQuaid is a journalist and author. He reported this story while a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. He is currently a PhD student at the University of Maryland Merrill College of Journalism.

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