The effect, the authors argue, is a virtual lineup, with algorithms replacing eyewitnesses. That might sound like a good thing, given that psychologists and other researchers have shown repeatedly that human eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable. Surely a dispassionate algorithm would do a better job at singling out perpetrators?
Not always, it’s turning out — particularly if you happen to be nonwhite, and even more particularly if you are African-American. What’s worse, no one really knows why it happens, or how pervasive such algorithmic biases might be, because very few such systems are tested for internal biases, and little academic research has been undertaken.