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“Coded Bias” – The Fight for Privacy in a Tech Driven World – By Natalie Jude Johnson

by April 1, 2021 0

In a world where technology is often viewed as the saving grace of contemporary society, it is important to question who we are attempting to save, and how we expect technology to save them. The Meaningful Movies Project in collaboration with ITVS and IndieLens has chosen to explore these issues with the documentary film Coded Bias.

An issue of increasing importance around the world, is that of facial recognition technology. Algorithms made to track the physical and digital movements of all people are created by a racially and gender-disproportionate group of people. The people most positively represented by facial detection algorithms reflect the people in charge of the algorithm’s creation – in the U.S. that has been cisgendered white men.

The documentary film Coded Bias, directed by Shalini Kantayya, explores the immorality of facial recognition as it currently exists and describes the ways in which we as a people should push back against the increasing use of it by technology companies such as Google and Facebook that are quietly and increasingly violating our privacy by exploiting data from our devices and even faces.

Joy Buolamwini, a researcher of artificial intelligence, takes the audience on a dive into the world of artificial intelligence and the intelligence behind it all. The regulations for tech companies are far and few between, due to the new issues of technological privacy infringement and the old issues of corporate connections to government, and because of this many large companies such as Facebook and Google have had little to no trouble collecting masses of data on billions of people. 

After the showing of Coded Bias, a community discussion took place, hosted  by the Mount Baker Meaningful Movies Group and led  by Jennifer Lee, Technology & Liberty Manager at the ACLU of Washington. Ms. Lee  explained specific issues involving the trouble with artificial intelligence and the motions ACLU are making to aid the public in renouncing technological privacy infringements. It is important that we work as a community to analyze the moral and legal aspects  of artificial intelligence and promote regulation. We need to immediately create privacy laws and policies that prohibit the use of personal data by any corporations without the knowledge and express consent of the individuals who are affected, and work tirelessly to protect and strengthen our civil liberties. The first step to making a positive change is by becoming educated. If you or a friend is interested in watching or rewatching Coded Bias (among a plethora of other wonderful documentary films) the film is readily available for free on PBS until April 21, 2021. Go here:




Read Now – Referenced during the film

‘Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy’ by Cathy O’Neill

Big Brother Watch UK’s study in its entirety here:

At least half of U.S. states also allow police to search their database of driver’s license photos for matches of suspected criminals :

A few police departments, such as Detroit, are now experimenting with real-time video facial recognition, the kind used by the U.K. police surveillance van featured in the film:

In 2019, Facebook and Google on average employed slightly more than 20 percent women in technical positions, such as coders, engineers, and data scientists. When it came to race/ethnicity, Apple posted the highest diversity in technical positions at 6 percent Black and 8 percent Latinx, with the rest of the companies achieving a fraction of that. Read more here:

Here is an article about “Facebook Experiments”

In 2019, the study “Actionable Auditing,” by Inioluwa Deborah Raji and Joy Buolamwini, was published, exposing racial and gender bias in commercial face-based AI products from Amazon:

An article about what it feels like to be a women of color in tech:

To learn more, read “Impact of the US Housing Crisis on the Racial Wealth Gap Across Generations”

Machine Bias – Read the findings from ProPublica here:

Article on ACLU suit against FBI’s use of facial recognition technology.


Watch Now:

Poem by Joy Buolamwini on Youtube: AI- Aint I A Woman?

“CODED BIAS” is available to watch for free on the PBS Video App from March 22–April 20, 2021:


Actions (Do now if you live in WA State!):

ACLU Washington opposes SB 5062, the weak, industry-backed Washington Privacy Act:

Action alert on SB 5062 by one Indivisible:

Learn how to take action with Algorithmic Justice League here:


Contact information if you want to volunteer or get involved with ACLU Washington Technology Coalition: (Jennifer Lee)


NOTE: This event was organized by Mt Baker Meaningful Movies and co-hosted by Beacon Hill Meaningful Movies, Everett Meaningful Movies, and Beacon Arts. To learn more about other Meaningful Movies events, or how to start your own volunteer run Meaningful Movies group, go to The Meaningful Movies Project operates according to the principles of the gift economy which means that we don’t charge a fee for the support and services we provide to local groups. We want to encourage any group that is interested in using social justice documentary film and facilitated conversation to support peace and justice, to do so!  


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