6 On Your Side: Consumer Confidence, how tech can discriminate

[anvplayer video=”5175508″ station=”998128″]

(ABC 6 News) – Technology is meant to improve our lives, but that doesn’t always happen. As a new Consumer Reports investigation reveals, some of the things that power our lives each day can contain hidden biases that result in unfair practices towards communities of color.

For decades, people of color were kept out of home ownership – a practice called redlining. Though this practice is now illegal the results have not changed.

“The information used in redlining has largely been fed into new algorithms that are essentially doing the same kind of thing without the racist overtones,” says Consumer Reports’ Brian Vines.

A new Consumer Reports documentary series called, “Bad Input,” sheds light on the ways in which technology is failing – in home lending, medicine, and facial recognition and security. Which raises the question – can technology be racist?

“The answer is yes,” says Vines. “Frankly, tech can be racist. If tech is fed bad information, it will continue to give us bad outputs.”

During the pandemic, pulse oximeters helped save lives. But a study done by experts at the University of Michigan showed that the technology was not as accurate for Black patients versus White patients.

“People of color were presenting and getting wrong readings. It delayed the care that they were able to receive and could really have some dire consequences if you’re showing up and your blood oxygen level is incorrect,” says Vines.

You may not notice it, but facial recognition technology can be found everywhere – on your phone, at the self-check-out at a store, or standing in line at an event and security is scanning.

“We’ve seen cases across the country of people being misidentified and facing criminal charges,” says Vines.

To learn more about discriminatory technology and to watch CR’s three part documentary series, “Bad Input,” visit, badinput.org

Some ways to use technology responsibly include limiting the following activities: posting pictures of yourself or family on social media, joining a public Wi-Fi network, or signing up for something where you have to enter personal information.