Fight for the Future and 27 other human rights organizations have wrote a letter asking for Zoom stop developing emotion tracking software.
Emotion tracking software uses AI to analyze a person’s face during a video call to track their emotional and facial responses. The letter calls this software “…invasive technology… [and] a violation of privacy and human rights.
fight for the future covers five main points why she and other organizations are concerned. They claim it is a security risk, discriminatory, manipulative, based on pseudoscience, and a means of retaliation.
According to Protocol, one of the purposes of emotional tracking software is to provide data to a sales team on whether or not their pitch is working for their customer. By knowing the “emotional state” of a client, a team can adjust its strategy on the fly. Another goal is to track the emotional state of students, see how engaged they are, and use that data to improve online lessons.
The groups fear that bad actors and even government organizations could steal the data obtained through this technology to track people. From there, the technology could be used to discriminate against people from certain groups. Fight for the Future even compares it to facial recognition, which has been criticized for being unreliable, unfair, and invasive.
They also fear that companies will monitor users to manipulate them or punish them outright for expressing “bad emotions”.
And on top of all that, this technology might not even work. A study by the Association for Psychological Science reveals that the face does not always reflect a person’s emotions since people can easily hide them.
The letter ends with the groups asking Zoom to respond and stating that it will no longer develop emotion tracking by May 20, 2022.
Analysis: Zoom’s response
Zoom has yet to respond to Fight for the Future, but the letter points to instances where the company bows down to its users. In late 2020, Zoom rolled out end-to-end encryption for paid users after receiving a ton of backlash for its poor security protocols. And during that same period, Zoom removed attention tracking due to similar privacy concerns.
While Zoom has changed its mind in the past, the current company may not budge. It recently launched Zoom IQ for Sales, an add-on for meetings that provides post-meeting emotional analysis and a transcript of all conversations.
For those interested, Fight for the Future has a petition page where people can sign and support its efforts to get Zoom to remove emotion tracking from its platform.