By Logan Aviles
All applicants are equal, but some are more equal than others.
This paradoxical phrase rang true just a few months ago, following the biggest college admissions cheating scandal in the nation’s history. 51 defendants have been named in a conspiracy to game the college admissions system, doing everything from bribing coaches from colleges as elite as Yale to cheating on standardized exams. Parents have paid hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to Rick Singer, the college admissions officer who created the scheme, to falsify athletic credentials and inflate standardized test scores. Those who have pled guilty have gotten off with little punishment. The lightest sentence of those who’ve confessed is barely more than probation. Other light sentences include the impressive 14-day debt to society incurred by Emmy-winning actress Felicity Huffman. The heaviest sentence given so far is a mere five months, and in all cases, sentences have been reduced from what the prosecutors originally requested.
Considering that we’ve reached the conclusion of the law enforcement investigation surrounding the scandal, it is an opportune moment to analyze the scandal’s implications for the broader educational system.
There’s no doubt that education is key. And access to that education ought to be afforded on a meritocratic basis. With parents receiving light sentences and prosecutors compromising on punishment, it has become clear that the justice system does not fully appreciate the importance of higher education. Singer’s scheme and others like it undermine the opportunities of all students who put in the work to become an appealing applicant. When prosecutors let cheaters off with a slap on the wrist, elites are less likely to think twice about inflating their kid’s academic prospects, further widening the educational gap between the rich and the poor. Applications cannot fulfill their intended purpose if it comes into the best interest of all applicants to find new and inventive ways of misleading college admissions officers and exploiting vulnerabilities in the admissions process.
But besides Rick Singer and the parents who participated in this scheme, there is another party accountable: the schools themselves. The most alarming part of this story is not that elites are willing to game the admissions process—it’s that exploitable weaknesses in the admissions process ever existed in the first place. The college admissions scandal cannot be soon forgotten; it is a terrible mark on the integrity of higher education. Hopefully the arrests will lead to a new age of increased scrutiny and accountability that will improve the meritocracy of the educational system.
By Logan Aviles
Big Brother is watching you.
Governments across the globe are currently expanding their facial recognition technologies. With decreasing accountability and transparency, facial recognition could pose numerous threats.
There’s no question that facial recognition has taken the private and public sector by storm. It’s beginning to be used everywhere — from airports, to shopping malls, border patrol, and especially law enforcement. Moreover, a recent research report projected that the facial recognition industry will grow from $3.2 billion in 2019 to $7.0 billion by 2024 in just the U.S. alone. These technologies function by creating a “facial signature,” measuring the dimensions of a human face and placing its unique dimensions into a data set. These data sets are often used by law enforcement agencies to identify and locate criminals.
But the technology has still drawn some well-placed skepticism. One could cite the lack of federal regulation as a source of concern. Even assuming that the technology is accurate and effective, there still isn’t enough transparency (or, in some cases, accountability) for how that data will be used, interpreted, and applied in law enforcement efforts. There’s no clear authority in place that could put private companies and law enforcement agencies on the right track.
Further, the usage of facial recognition within China has proven just how severe an impact the technology can have on privacy and democracy. With over 500,000 faces scanned per month, China uses its facial recognition technology to profile and keep tabs on Uyghur Muslims under the pretext of security. These systems identify minorities so that they may be better tracked and surveilled by Chinese surveillance systems. Facial recognition has contributed significantly to the Chinese surveillance state.
Facial recognition programs may also exacerbate the already existing racial biases of police officers. Even top performing facial recognition softwares still struggle to differentiate between African Americans — misidentifying them at rates five to ten times greater than they do whites, leading to a greater number of false positives, further solidifying police officer’s racist associations between criminality and minority status. These biases are irreversible; facial recognition algorithms fed with data coming from human beings with innate and unconscious racial biases will inevitably reflect that racial bias.
Biased algorithms are even more dangerous than biased people. People are accountable for their own actions — but when an algorithm inadvertently encourages racialized policing, biased behavior can then slip by undetected, settling underneath the veneer of scientific authority and the dazzle of exciting new technology.
Facial recognition has exploded into the modern technological mainstream, and there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. The best one could ask of a nation and its citizens is that they stay vigilant. Facial recognition technology has shown that it is capable of doing bad things on a terrible scale; it is the obligation of all governments to do what they can within their power to keep pace with the development of this new technology. If the good voices of the world cannot keep pace with this new technology and all of its destructive capabilities, then the risks of facial recognition will continue to imperil society.