Technology

AI-Powered Hiring Practices Face Regulator Scrutiny

By / Nov 14, 2019 (Phoenixns/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

A company that sells AI-based facial detection technology to employers to screen job candidates is the subject of a regulatory complaint due to concerns it introduces bias to the hiring process.

Artificial intelligence has a lot to offer your association in a variety of ways.

But—as a recent news story highlights—it might prove more problematic than helpful when it comes to hiring practices. Last week, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a consumer watchdog, reached out to the Federal Trade Commission asking regulators to take a look at the recruiting company HireVue, which uses artificial intelligence techniques decided upon by video interviews or online games to help figure out whether an applicant is a fit for a specific company.

Per The Washington Post, HireVue’s technology, used by more than 700 companies worldwide, has become popular enough in some fields that some colleges train students with it in mind. But even experts in artificial intelligence, such as the AI Now Institute’s Meredith Whittaker, worry that the technology is plainly discriminatory and not based in any sort of scientific fact.

“It’s a profoundly disturbing development that we have proprietary technology that claims to differentiate between a productive worker and a worker who isn’t fit, based on their facial movements, their tone of voice, their mannerisms,” Whittaker told the newspaper.

This point is what EPIC’s complaint leans on, with the organization noting that HireVue does not comply with a number of industry standards for AI.

“The company purports to evaluate a job applicant’s qualifications based upon their appearance by means of an opaque, proprietary algorithm,” the organization stated.

For its part, according to the Post, the company claims that its technology doesn’t use facial recognition to identify candidates, but EPIC has challenged that assessment as misleading, noting that the firm uses facial geometry data to compare job candidates to other successful candidates.

The situation with HireVue evokes a similar situation involving Facebook. A year ago, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that found that Facebook’s algorithm-based advertising approach for job listings inherently discriminated against women by advertising jobs in male-dominated fields only to men. Before that, Facebook faced age-based complaints as well.

(EPIC currently is fighting a settlement between the U.S. government and Facebook regarding the social network’s face-recognition technology.)

Beyond EPIC’s complaint, HireVue’s technology has also drawn scrutiny at the state level, with Illinois about to enact a law that requires employers who use facial-recognition technology to inform job applicants and regulators how their systems work. For its part, HireVue says its technology complies with the law.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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