Last month, it is reported that Zoom will develop a new Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology that can scan users’ faces and speed to determine their emotions. Now, the platform is in its early stages of development and is now receiving some backlash from several human rights groups, such as Access Now, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the Muslim Justice League.

Over 25 rights groups sent a letter to Zoom CEO, Eric Yuan, on Wednesday to halt the company’s further research into emotion-based AI. 

Esha Bhandari, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project deputy director said that an AI like this is “creepy technology.” 

Caitlin Seeley George, director of campaign and operations at Fight for the Future said, “If Zoom advances with these plans, this feature will discriminate against people of certain ethnicities and people with disabilities, hardcoding stereotypes into millions of devices.” 

She continued, “Beyond mining users for profit and allowing businesses to capitalize on them, this technology could take on far more sinister and punitive uses.”

The Plans for the AI 

Zoom has laid out its plans for AI technology. In a blog post that they shared last month, they explained in detail the ‘Zoom IQ’ concept. The platform said that it will be helpful for those people in sales as they can determine the emotions of people who are on a call to improve their pitches. 

The Zoom IQ tracks metrics like talking speed, monologue, patience, talk-listen radio, engaging questions, next steps, step up, and sentiment and engagement. 

Furthermore, Zoom noted that the data it gathers will only be for informational purposes, which means that there may be some inaccuracies down the line. 

Intel and Classroom Technologies

This isn’t the first time rights groups spoke up against AI technology. Intel and Classroom Technologies are also working on an AI that can detect the mood of children in virtual classrooms. It could help teachers tell if a student was bored, confused, or distracted. 

(Photo : Photo credit: MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP via Getty Image)
A visitor at Intel’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) Day walks past a signboard during the event in the Indian city of Bangalore on April 4, 2017.

However, the AI tool has been met with resistance from many as well because of the ethical and moral ramifications of monitoring students and assessing their emotional states through AI. 

The software is dubbed”emotion AI” that will integrate with Zoom through Class, a software product from Classroom Technologies. This is because Zoom is the most-used platform in education, it makes a lot of sense to implement AI tech into many virtual classrooms today. 

According to Sinem Aslan, a research scientist at Intel said, ” We did not start this technology as a surveillance system. In fact, we don’t want this technology to be a surveillance system.”

Furthermore, Intel believes that AI can bring beneficial advancements in different industries and society for a sustainable future. They also made it clear that they abide by strict data privacy policies.

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