Google Derm Assist dermatology app racial bias

Occurred: April 2021

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Google has launched Derm Assist, an AI-powered app that automatically analyses skin conditions, asks questions, and suggests causes. The app is being tested in the US and has been approved for use as a medical tool in Europe. 

Google says the app can recognise 288 skin conditions; however, some doctors have expressed their concerns about the accuracy of the system, in part due poor image quality, and the potential for over-diagnosis of skin cancers.

It also appears the system was trained and tested on a dataset that underrepresents people with dark skin tones, resulting in accusations of racial bias. It also drew attention to perceived real-life Google workforce discrimination and inequality. 

Despite Google saying it would only save images to help train the Derm Assist algorithm if users gave them explicit permission to do so, concerns have also been raised about the potential for Google using personal sensitive data for other purposes.

Operator: Alphabet/Google
Developer: Alphabet/Google
Country: USA
Sector: Health
Purpose: Identify dermatological issues
Technology: Computer vision
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Bias/discrimination - race; Privacy
Transparency: Governance; Privacy