Society features

Civil society organizations call on Zoom to drop emotional analysis features

A group of nearly 30 civil society groups sent a letter to Zoom on Wednesday calling on the company to stop developing any software aimed at analyzing the emotions of video call participants.

The letter comes in response to a report in technical publication Protocol where Zoom said it plans to offer post-meeting sentiment analysis for hosts.

“This decision to extract emotional data points from users based on the misconception that AI can track and analyze human emotions is a violation of privacy and human rights,” the groups said, including Fight for the Future, the American Civil Liberties Union and Ranking Digital. Rights, wrote.

“Zoom needs to halt plans to advance this feature,” they added in the memo to Zoom CEO Eric Yuan.

The groups also launched an online petition on Wednesday urging Zoom to abandon the technology.

A Zoom spokesperson declined to comment on the letter or plans to roll out emotional analysis.

Technology designed to analyze human reactions and expressions using artificial intelligence to determine emotions has drawn criticism from civil rights groups and academics.

Facial expressions are incredibly variable from culture to culture and nation to nation, which makes creating an algorithm capable of judging them just as difficult. This is a tall order, even without taking into account people with disabilities who may express emotions in different ways than the people around them.

“If Zoom moves forward with these plans, this feature will discriminate against people of certain ethnicities and people with disabilities, hard-coding stereotypes into millions of devices,” said Caitlin Seeley George, director of campaign and operations at Fight for the Future, in a press release.

“It’s not hard to imagine employers and academic institutions using emotion analysis to discipline workers and students perceived to be ‘expressing the wrong emotions’ based on flawed AI,” he said. -she adds.

This story was updated at 12:59 p.m.