back to article Google causes more facial-recog pain, machine learning goes quantum ­– and how to lose a job if an AI doesn't like your face

Welcome to this week's machine-learning musings: let's catch you up on stuff that's been happening. Google offered $5 gift vouchers to black homeless people and Atlanta city isn’t happy: Facial recognition datasets are unfairly dominated with images of white men, so Google hired third-party contractors to go around recording …

  1. Korev Silver badge

    Computer vision is being used in job interviews: Oh dear, facial tracking technology is being used to monitor candidates’ faces during job interviews for the first time in the UK.

    Unilever is apparently rolling out the technology to screen potential employees answering interview questions, via a camera on a mobile phone or a laptop.

    Autistic people have problems with eye contact; surely this would break the discrimination laws in England/Wales(/other areas of the UK)?

    1. Imhotep

      The Next Big Thing: Automated Stupidity

      There is an excellent book by Malcolm Gladwell on this subject, titled Talking To Strangers.

      The takeaway is pretty much that none of us - police officers, psychiatrists and interrogators included - is any good at reading people. It would seem to follow that any algorithyms written by people are going to be crap also.

      One section of the book is devoted to the Amanda Knox case, convicted of murder almost solely because she did not behave how the police and prosecutors thought an innocent person should act.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge

      > Autistic people have problems with eye contact

      On the other hand there is absolutely no warranty they would fare better with your standard HR drone ("Who's that shifty fellow who can't look me in the eyes? I don't like him.").

      Anyway, while I'm skeptical about the whole computer interview idea too, intellectual honesty forces me to admit that recruitment has always been biased and unfair: A good-looking, likeable, self-confident person will always win over an ordinary-looking, shy, introverted person. The fact the former might turn out to be an unreliable airhead while the latter might prove to be a dedicated, tireless, intelligent worker doesn't show in a job interview (no matter the voodoo ceremonies HR might stage), and that is a problem both for the interviewer and the interviewee.

      - Not that machine learning will fix this. I know I would feel very uncomfortable speaking to a stupid laptop: I'm not a politician, I don't make my living sweet-talking my way out of (or into) things.

      1. Imhotep

        On your interview observations: this weekend's Wall Street Journal has an article suggesting that companies skip the interview for CEOs.

        Speaking for myself and the people I've interviewed over the years: I probably would have done better to skip the interview and focus on past positions and performance, and on verifying what was in the resume.

        Stupid and incompetent people can interview very well, your ideal candidate may not.

        One thing I did get right was having HR remove the requirement for a college degree for any technical position I was trying to fill.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          The only thing I ever found useful interviewing people - and it always seems to have worked out well - was asking about real work related situations. What would you do/have you done in such and such situation?

          i.e. do they have the skills, theoretical knowledge and sense of professional boundaries* to make the right choices.

          *Knowing when to ask for advice and not just persevere is often as important as knowing what to do. I wanted people who know when to stop digging.

          1. ThatOne Silver badge

            > What would you do/have you done in such and such situation?

            That is an excellent system because it's not about causal-yet-loaded smalltalk introvert people will be uncomfortable with, it's about concrete stuff like you meet in your everyday job: "Here is the problem, what do you suggest we could do?".

            The only problem is it works only for professions and positions requiring independent thinking and problem solving capacities. It won't work for low wage do-as-I-say jobs, which I guess are the prime target of the laptop interview idea. (You won't interview your new financial director with a laptop, if only because he'll slam the door in your face and leave...)

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge

              I'm at a loss to think f what you'd learn in an interview for that sort of job that isn't just "people like us".

    3. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Good to know that Steven Hawking would not have got a job with them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Good to know that Steven Hawking would not have got wanted a job with them.


    4. Christoph

      They could extend the system by having it analyse the bumps on the applicant's head to predict their personality.

    5. Sam Therapy

      You beat me to it. My son is autistic but at 10 years old, he's not going to be interviewed for a job yet. I recently found out I'm autistic, too.

      Maybe we should carry a little card or something. Just fucking great.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        perhaps the DWP will mandate a symbol of some sort to be worn on clothing at all times, like a gold star or perhaps a pound sign to inform others of the cost to society from disabled people....

        (spoken as someone with mental health issues and ergo I hate the DWP by the way, but its something I could see them doing....they seem to be rolling out the nazi era policies bit by bit with a few tweaks here and there...)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        My son is 23 and we're going through this right now...

      3. Imhotep

        My daughter bought me a book titled "Neurotribes" and asked if I recognized anyone in it. I didn't. But then, that's probably just illustrated the point she was trying to make.

        I just retired last week, and I can say the second half of my life was much more successful than the first half. This was after I had gained some degree of proficiency in interacting with other people, something that seems to come naturally to most of the world. Given the audience for this site, others may be able to say the same.

        My good fortune was that I was very good at something that was in demand and hard to find - that compensates for a lot of other short comings. If anyone else is struggling in their work life, I'd say explore that option.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        If you only recently found out about yourself, given your age, your own condition must be nearly undetectable. Do you even have the right to wear the "Autism" badge at all?... (joke)

        My point is, do not yield to categories, things you are, or are not part of. We're all people, different from each other, it just happens one of your own differences falls under a named category. But that doesn't mean a thing. We all have to some degree some difference bearing some big name. The important thing is how we cope with it, and who we are in life.

        1. Imhotep


          Point taken. I've never thought of myself as Autistic, and don't believe I would meet the clinical definition. But I do think a little bit of self awareness at an earlier age would have helped me address some shortcomings earlier on. It would also have helped me recognize that other people were struggling with some issues of their own.

    6. Terry 6 Silver badge

      And there are cultural differences in how we use eye contact, n how we position our heads, in how we respond to different age groups in terms of verbal and non-verbal communication. And probably a few more that I haven't remembered (class?).

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        A cynic might suggest that it is precisely those cultural differences Unilever are hoping to screen out of the pool.

    7. katrinab Silver badge

      Also, it assumes that there is a correlation between type of eye contact and anything else, that it can cope with people who put big glass lenses on front of their face for various reasons, it can cope with people who's face colour is not the Brexit Party approved shade of gammon, and it can cope with the effects of positioning the camera, interviewee and interviewer in different positions.

    8. localgeek

      I'm on the spectrum, and don't have problems making eye contact in most cases. I'm more likely to trigger concern by failing to break eye contact at normal intervals. While I do try to approximate "normal" breaks, I'm not always successful at it. My facial expressions don't always reflect typical behavior, either.

      In any event, this process of weeding out applicants via an AI evaluation is bound to end poorly for a host of people, and for a host of reasons.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Big Brother

    What could possibly go wrong? The mere fact that there is a camera present might make people react differently. I wouldn't feel comfortable with it at all and, in my opinion, it should be banned.

    1. Snake Silver badge

      Re: Big Brother

      But, yet again, this is excellent proof of my previous statements: Big Brother is being rolled out by *private enterprise*, and it seems both they and us have no qualms in doing so. We worry about "Big Brother" coming to us from the government but its already here corporately.

      And a portion of our population is cheering it on. And saying "Thank you, sir, may I have another!!"

  3. Blackjack Silver badge


    So they are using AI to decide to hire people... for jobs like telemarketing were people are being replaced for AI?

    I can count with one hand the number of times I get a call from an actual person to sell me stuff in a year. 98% of the time is a recorded message that probably has "Press 1 to be scanmed." options. I always hang up so I have no clue how it works.

    Not to mention that sending people to buy stuff in the place webpage is becoming so common is insane.

    I am already in your stupid store wasting my valuable time! Why the hell do you want me to use the company website to buy something you could be selling me yourself since ya know, I am here at your store to buy stuff?

    1. Arty Effem

      Re: Uh?

      "I am already in your stupid store wasting my valuable time! Why the hell do you want me to use the company website to buy something you could be selling me yourself since ya know, I am here at your store to buy stuff?"

      Because we're planning to hose the store, so get used to it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Uh?

      > I am already in your stupid store wasting my valuable time! Why the hell do you want me to use the company website to buy something you could be selling me yourself since ya know, I am here at your store to buy stuff?

      I run into this all the time at the nearby big box book store. Popular book is shown on their web site but is invariably never available in the stores. "Oh, we don't have it in stock." ("Yeah... you /never/ do." I'm thinking.) "But I can order it for you and you can pick it up at the customer service counter when it comes in." chirps the friendly clerk behind the counter. "You mean you can't be bothered to have even a /few/ copies in the damned store? I have to order it and you're suggesting that it come here to the store so I can make a special trip /back/ to the store?" I look forward to their going-out-of-business sales when I can buy books for pennies on the dollar.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Computer Says No!

    and your career and probably your life is Fsck'd.

    There is only so far that these people can go. Until they get stopped (I'll leave the actual method of stopping them up to you) they'll continue to screw us around all in the interests so called progress.

    I'm sure that it won't be long before the likes of Crapita sell this to HMG to weed out those falsely claiming Universal Credit and every other benefit. Naturally it will be implimented so badly that even a blind quadraplegic will be declared fit for work as a Postie. (No disrespects to blind quadraplegics)

    There is trouble ahead over almost all uses of AI. I can't wait for its results to be challenged in court.

    1. stiine Silver badge

      Re: Computer Says No!

      Sorry, the judge is also an AI.

    2. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Computer Says No!

      The DWP already tried this with voice analysis. They scrapped it when they found that the people it picked up were no more likely to be benefit fraudsters than the ones it didn't pick up.

  5. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Hail the New Boss, Completely Different from the Old Bosses .........

    ..and quantum supremacy tests using near-term quantum devices,” Google concluded.

    For New Style Old World Order Type Control Commanders, Google? Don't be coy now, for these things are widely enough known to be worthy of peddling to a competitive market place.

    Say no to be proven totally wrong with such Controllers.

    And not many will kiss and tell you that is for real, ACTive and readily available for applications/deployments/wild releases.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Brave New Worlds to Follow with Scripts Beyond Traditional Command and Conventional Control

      A little something sobering/terrifying for the nay sayers and down voters here ..... Spooky Second Fiddles Lead No Orchestra

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Four out of six ........ pointing out that the essay’s tone was “hypothetical and abstract”, the ideas were “vague” or “not incredibly useful”. "

    So it looks like politicians, or at least their speechwriters, are about to be replaced.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    You can imagine that employing such a model to screen candidates could discriminate against people that don’t necessarily act in the same manner as those in the training data which could end up being potentially disastrous.

    Not as disastrous, perhaps, as actually getting the job with a company that talks a lot about 'empathy', yet interviews people by shoving a camera in their face and letting an AI judge them?

  8. harmjschoonhoven

    The easy way

    When a company got over 400 replies on their job advertisement, the chair of the selection committee split them in half and put the upper half in the bin with the remark We can not use people without luck.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: The easy way

      And shortly thereafter had his salary reduced by 50% on the grounds he was doing only half his job?

    2. Whitter

      Re: The easy way

      That was a joke in The Office wasn't it? Has it become an urban legend now? Or did some numpty watch David Brent and think it was actually a good idea?

  9. Anonymous Coward

    "asking the company to explain why it was exploiting the city’s “most vulnerable populations”"

    Because the poor work cheap??

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "asking the company to explain why it was exploiting the city’s “most vulnerable populations”"

      I'm not sure why Google decided to do this in the U.S. Surely it would have made more sense to do this in Ghana, Mozambique, Lesotho, and/or Niger. On the other hand, any official statement by the City of Atlanta is probably false.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: "asking the company to explain why it was exploiting the city’s “most vulnerable populations”"

        There's about 150 or so different tribes, and there are more differences between these tribes than between some of them and white people. You probably need to sample all of them.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "asking the company to explain why it was exploiting the city’s “most vulnerable populations”"

        I'm also puzzled by Google's thinking but for a slightly different reason...

        They have a database filled with mostly average looking pasty-faced Caucasians and want to redress the balance... by going to the extreme opposite and picking homeless people, few of which are going to look 'average' for whatever ethnicity they happen to be

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: "asking the company to explain why it was exploiting the city’s “most vulnerable populations”"

          I suspect Google's thinking was "we want more data; let's hire some firm to get us more data". Whatever happens after that Isn't Google's Problem, as far as they're concerned.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Am I the only person who thinks TensorFlow sounds like some sort of incontinence pad?

  11. Kiwi
    Thumb Up

    Computer vision is being used in job interviews:

    Please bring this to NZ! I never need work another day in my life!

    Well, except for the court hearings.

    With the "on the spectrum" stuff I have a hard time with eye contact and other supposedly normal expressions. Due to the events of my life, I have a borderline phobia of being filmed. Pretty sure if I went to an interview and saw such a rig I could request it be removed on disability/privacy grounds, and take them to court when they don't do so and terminate the interview.

    I wonder how Unilever will get on under GDPR? If every failed interviewee was to request copies of the video as well as all notes/discussion etc? (Does GDPR allow that?). What about any relevant "right to be forgotten" laws?

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