When Joy Buolamwini found that a robot recognised her face better when she wore a white mask, she knew a problem needed fixing

Joy Buolamwini is a graduate researcher at the MIT Media Lab and founder of the Algorithmic Justice League – an organisation that aims to challenge the biases in decision-making software. She grew up in Mississippi, gained a Rhodes scholarship, and she is also a Fulbright fellow, an Astronaut scholar and a Google Anita Borg scholar. Earlier this year she won a $50,000 scholarship funded by the makers of the film Hidden Figures for her work fighting coded discrimination.

A lot of your work concerns facial recognition technology. How did you become interested in that area?
When I was a computer science undergraduate I was working on social robotics – the robots use computer vision to detect the humans they socialise with. I discovered I had a hard time being detected by the robot compared to lighter-skinned people. At the time I thought this was a one-off thing and that people would fix this.

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