This Terrifying Netflix Doc Reveals the Flaws in Facial Recognition Technology

Have you ever wondered how your phone’s facial recognition software really works? Well, allow this all-new documentary to blow your mind.

Coded Bias originally premiered back in 2020, but it just became available to stream on Netflix. Although it’s only been a matter of days, we wouldn’t be surprised if the flick claims a spot on the streaming service’s list of most-watched movies. (If so, it will be ranked among the likes of What Lies Below, Concrete Cowboy and Friends with Benefits.)

Coded Bias is presented by Joy Buolamwini, an M.I.T. Media Lab researcher who has found several flaws in facial recognition technology. It all started when she realized that her phone’s software worked better when she wore a white mask. The documentary investigates the algorithms behind facial recognition and examines how the system’s bias affects people of color.

“It turned out these algorithms performed better with a light male face as the benchmark,” she says in the doc. “It did better on the male faces than the female faces, and lighter face better than darker faces.”

In addition to Buolamwini, Coded Bias also features appearances by Meredith Broussard, Silkie Carlo, Jenny Jones, Jim Jordan, Tranae Moran, Cathy O’Neil, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Webb and Mark Zuckerberg. The movie was directed by Shalini Kantayya (Catching the Sun).

Come tonight, you already know what we’ll be doing.

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Senior Editor

Greta Heggeness is a California-based editor at PureWow and has been writing about entertainment since 2015. She covers everything from awards shows to exclusive celebrity...