News & Commentary

October 19, 2018

Amazon’s discriminatory hiring algorithm is not alone, Cathy O’Neill writes. Rather, many companies use algorithms for hiring and human resources tasks and intentionally seek to maintain plausible deniability about whether the algorithm perpetuates discrimination. For those who haven’t heard, Amazon recently pulled its hiring algorithm because the company learned that the algorithm was discriminated against women applicants — giving demerits for going to a women’s college, for instance — because the input data from Amazon reflected a gender bias in hiring and promotion. But O’Neill writes that the use of such an algorithm is the norm, and Amazon is the exception in that it chose to investigate algorithmic outcomes.

An Amazon employee spoke out in an op-ed against Amazon’s sale of facial recognition technology to police departments. The technology, known as Rekognition, has broad capacity to scan and store facial data points, and some Amazon employees fear that the sale of such technology to police departments, without strict limits on how the technology will be used, could facilitate mass surveillance. The piece is part of a trend, particularly in the technology industry, of employees speaking up about business decisions that impact public policy and politics.

As Marriott workers continue their strike in several cities, union leaders and activists criticized the musical artist Common for crossing the picket line at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston. Common, who has been active in social movements, including Black Lives Matter, did not respond to comment. The strike is now in its third week.


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