Government Audit of AI With Ties To White Supremacy Finds No AI
Khari Johnson writes via VentureBeat: In April 2020, news broke that Banjo CEO Damien Patton, once the subject of profiles by business journalists, was previously convicted of crimes committed with a white supremacist group. According to OneZero’s analysis of grand jury testimony and hate crime prosecution documents, Patton pled guilty to involvement in a 1990 shooting attack on a synagogue in Tennessee. Amid growing public awareness about algorithmic bias, the state of Utah halted a $20.7 million contract with Banjo, and the Utah attorney general’s office opened an investigation into matters of privacy, algorithmic bias, and discrimination. But in a surprise twist, an audit and report released last week found no bias in the algorithm because there was no algorithm to assess in the first place.

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“Banjo expressly represented to the Commission that Banjo does not use techniques that meet the industry definition of artificial Intelligence. Banjo indicated they had an agreement to gather data from Twitter, but there was no evidence of any Twitter data incorporated into Live Time,” reads a letter Utah State Auditor John Dougall released last week. The incident, which VentureBeat previously referred to as part of a “fight for the soul of machine learning,” demonstrates why government officials must evaluate claims made by companies vying for contracts and how failure to do so can cost taxpayers millions of dollars. As the incident underlines, companies selling surveillance software can make false claims about their technologies’ capabilities or turn out to be charlatans or white supremacists — constituting a public nuisance or worse. The audit result also suggests a lack of scrutiny can undermine public trust in AI and the governments that deploy them.

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