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Ethics Institute Concludes Inaugural NSF-Funded Summer Graduate Training Program

This article was originally published by Northeastern Global News on August 3, 2023.

The proliferation of cameras in so many public spaces raises an ethical issue: Is facial recognition technology identifying us as we go to the airport or visit our favorite store?

The development of artificial intelligence prompts many ethical issues, whether it’s facial recognition or ChatGPT. 

“There’s a lot of interesting work on facial recognition and the privacy concerns that come with the use of facial recognition in public spaces,” says Clint Hurshman, one of a dozen graduate students who took part in the Northeastern University Ethics Institute’s summer training program to expand the Al and data ethics research community.

Hurshman, a doctoral student at the University of Kansas, focused on privacy and facial recognition technology for his final project. He analyzed the role consent plays in individuals being recorded in public and the ethical issues that arise in that conversation. 

“What I tried to show even on some alternative counts of privacy, we end up with the same conclusion that facial recognition technologies are really problematic for privacy,” he says.  

The graduate-level program at Northeastern is designed to teach researchers how to examine artificial intelligence and data systems through an ethical framework. The course is conducted by the Ethics Institute, an interdisciplinary effort supported by the Office of the Provost, the College of Social Sciences and Humanities (CSSH) and the Department of Philosophy and Religion.

“The idea is there’s a lot of demand in the field for people who can speak to the ethical dimensions and political social dimensions of AI and data science in public life,” said Kathleen Creel, assistant professor of philosophy and computer science at Northeastern and one of the lead organizers of the program. 

In the course, students covered issues around data privacy, racial bias and accessibility, Creel explains. 

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