Fight for the Future, an advocacy group that has campaigned to preserve net neutrality and ban facial recognition, wants Zoom to stop considering plans to incorporate controversial “emotion AI” in its services. Protocol was the first to report Zoom’s interest in the technology.
“We get that you’re trying to improve your platform, but mining us for emotional data points doesn’t make the world a better place,” said the organization in an open letter to the virtual meeting giant. The letter – accompanied by an online petition – calls on Zoom to “Make the right call and cancel this crummy surveillance feature—and publicly commit to not implementing sentiment analysis in the future.”
Emotion AI uses computer vision and facial recognition, speech recognition, natural-language processing and other AI technologies to capture data representing someone’s external expressions in an effort to detect the internal emotions or feelings they indicate. The validity of the technology is an open question.
Despite criticism around the legitimacy of emotion AI, it is finding its way into everyday tech products and generating investor interest. One company that currently offers software used by sales reps incorporating emotion AI features, Uniphore, recently collected $400 million in Series E funding at a valuation of $2.5 billion.
Now that one of the world’s largest video communication platforms is considering using emotion AI, organizations like Fight for the Future predict that it could be used in all sorts of ways that affect people’s everyday lives.
"But we see the writing on the wall," stated the group’s letter. “Ultimately, this software will be sold to schools and employers who will use it to track and discipline us."
Fight for the Future played a key role in coordinating protests that led to the demise of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) legislation.