Bernie Sanders says he'll ban police using facial recognition software

"IMG_0846" by Adrienne Campbell is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In an effort to avoid a dystopian sci-fi future where Artificial Intelligence knows pretty much everything about you, and a team of cops led by Tom Cruise run around arresting people for crimes they did not commit because of bad predictive analysis; Bernie Sanders and other Democratic candidates have some proposals on how we can stop it.

Recently Bernie Sanders unveiled a proposal that would outright ban the use of facial recognition for law enforcement purposes. It's part of a bigger proposal for a massive overhaul of the criminal justice system. It also comes on the heels of news and studies that have shown how wrong facial recognition algorithms can be, and the kind of damage these programs can do if deployed for law enforcement purposes.

A Georgetown University study found that the NYPD detectives used some creative methods to manipulate their facial recognition system to try and capture a shoplifter. Creative in this case means that the detective thought that the suspect looked like Woody Harrelson from blurry in-store security footage, and then fed a photo of Woody Harrelson into the facial recognition system. An arrest was eventually made in the case.

Another report from The Verge revealed that New Orleans was using its own facial recognition, and predictive analysis system in conjunction with its city-wide network of police cameras.

But law enforcement isn't the only place where AI can wreak havoc on people's lives study conducted by UC Berkeley found that consumer lending algorithms discriminate against minorities. And the ACLU found that an experiment using Amazon's facial recognition software produced some depressing results.

While Bernie Sanders's proposal seems to go the furthest some of the other Democrats will not be outdone. Elizabeth Warren recently wrote a letter to financial institutions citing the UC Berkeley study.

Julian Castro announced that a part of his plan to turn the data tables around the police and use a database to track police wrongdoing. Corry Booker, along with three other Senators, introduced the Algorithmic Accountability Act, which would require companies to study and fix all the systemic issues that Artificial Intelligence systems have with things like facial recognition.

However, it's also important to remember this isn't just that machines are out to get us, it is first and foremost a people issue.

The systems in question did not invent or build themselves, and the statistical models that they use are completely reliant on human input. The NYPD facial recognition system requires a detective to provide an image if camera footage isn't good enough, and if someone decides that someone looks like a movie star or a composite drawing then that increases the chances that a match could be incorrect without it being the machine's fault.

The systems that financial lending institutions use require analysts and data scientists to identify the variables that determine the predictive outcome. And if the people working on the system make unconsciously biased decisions that profile certain borrowers then the outcome will understandably be one-sided.

Something else to consider is the flow of money to the development of these systems, one study found that by 2020 investments in AI-based platforms will reach $1.25 trillion dollars. With that much at stake it's easy to image that more companies and governments will feel pressured to adopt lest they cause an economic downturn by refusing them.

Maybe we need a ban, and maybe we need to pressure out politicians to continue to be on the lookout for way to limit or stop not just the adoption of poorly built systems, but also to enforce way to make their use more a little bit less prone to human error and bias.


The healthcare systems in the United States and the United Kingdom couldn't be more different.

The UK's National Health Service is the largest government-run healthcare system in the world and the US's is largest private sector system.

Almost all essential health services in the UK are free, whereas in America cost can vary wildly based on insurance, co pays and what the hospitals and physicians choose to charge.

A medical bill in the US

One of the largest differences is cost. The average person in the UK spends £2,989 ($3915) per year on healthcare (most of which is collected through taxes), whereas the average American spends around $10,739 a year.

So Americans should obviously be getting better care, right? Well, the average life expectancy in the UK is higher and infant mortality rate is lower than that in the US.

RELATED: The World Health Organization declares war on the out of control price of insulin

Plus, in the U.S., only 84% of people are covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Sixteen percent of the population are forced to pay out of pocket.

In the UK, everyone is covered unless they are visiting the country or an undocumented resident.

Prescription drugs can cost Americans an arm and a leg, but in the UK, prescriptions or either free or capped at £8.60 ($11.27).

via Wikimedia Commons

The one drawback to the NHS system is responsiveness. In the UK people tend to wait longer for inessential surgeries, doctor's appointments, and in emergency rooms. Whereas, the US is ranked as the most responsive country in the world.

RELATED: Alarmingly high insulin prices are forcing Americans to flock to Canada to buy the drug

The New York Times printed a fair evaluation of the UK's system:

The service is known for its simplicity: It is free at the point of use to anyone who needs it. Paperwork is minimal, and most patients never see a bill. … No one needs to delay medical treatment until he or she can afford it, and virtually everyone is covered. …

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spent 17.2 percent of its economic output on health care in 2016, compared with 9.7 percent in Britain. Yet Britain has a higher life expectancy at birth and lower infant mortality.

Citizens in each country have an interesting perspective on each other's healthcare systems. UK citizens think it's inhumane for Americans have to pay through the nose when they're sick or injured. While Americans are skeptical of socialist medicine.

A reporter from Politics Joe hit the streets of London and asked everyday people what they think Americans pay for healthcare and they were completely shocked.


Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger


Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head


Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor


Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet
Instagram / Leonardo DiCaprio

This August, the world watched as the Amazon burned. There were 30,901 individual fires that lapped at the largest rainforest in the world. While fires can occur in the dry season due to natural factors, like lightning strikes, it is believed that the widespread fires were started by loggers and farmers to clear land. Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, cites a different cause: the actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

DiCaprio wasn't accused of hanging out in the rainforest with a box of matches, however President Bolsonaro did accuse the actor of funding nonprofit organizations that allegedly set fires to raise donations.

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