2021 MLIS Summit Focuses on Privacy and Algorithmic Bias

MLIS Summit focuses on issues of privacy, technology, and bias.
St. Catherine University's St. Paul, MN campus

The Master of Library and Information Science program hosted its annual Summit event for students, alumni, and the greater Minnesota LIS community on May 14, 2021.

This year, the program hosted the Summit virtually and focused on issues of privacy and technology with a screening of the award-winning documentary "Coded Bias," which tells the compelling story of Joy Buolamwini’s journey from MIT Media Lab researcher to prominent scholar, activist, and founder of the Algorithmic Justice League. After she discovers that many facial recognition technologies do not accurately detect darker-skinned faces or classify the faces of women, she delves into an investigation of widespread bias in algorithms.

The Minneapolis City Council recently passed an ordinance banning the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement, following actions and an open letter released by the ACLU of Minnesota and the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology and Military Equipment Coalition calling on the city council to ban the use of this technology and preserve citizens’ privacy. In passing this ordinance, Minneapolis joins several other cities across the nation in advocating for privacy.

These issues of bias and privacy are integral to the work of librarians and information professionals, and the Summit this year also served as a precursor to a new topics course, Information Ethics and Algorithmic Bias in Library and Information Science, which will be taught by Joyce Yukawa, PhD.

Dean Tarshia Stanley kicked off the event with a welcome and an introduction to the importance of libraries and information centers to our communities. If you are curious about this topic, "Coded Bias" is available to stream from the St. Kate’s library as well as on commercial streaming platforms.