Twenty-eight human rights organizations have written a letter to Zoom on Wednesday, urging the company to suspend all plans it has for emotion tracking software aimed at assessing users’ engagement and moods. The groups say the technology is discriminatory, manipulative, criminal, data security risk and based on pseudoscience.

“Adopting the unnecessary science of emotion detection on the Zoom platform would be a huge mistake,” said Tracy Rosenberg of Oakland Privacy in statement Wednesday. “There is zero reliable evidence that the machine can accurately assess someone’s emotional state, and much evidence that universal assumptions about ‘normality’ do not reflect human diversity and punish outside groups for differences.”

The letter, addressed to Zoom CEO Eric Yuan, came in response to article published last month by the technology publication Protocol, which reports that Zoom is developing technology aimed at assessing user moods or levels of engagement.

“Think about whether it’s used at work and someone misses a promotion because the computer says they don’t pay attention to a meeting, or if a student is disciplined because they don’t pay attention at school,” said Caitlin Seeley George, director of the Fight for the Future campaign. “he told CBS News.

According to Zoom, the system called Q for sales, will evaluate users for their ratio of talk time, slow response time and frequent speaker changes to track how busy the person is. Based on these factors, Zoom will assign points between zero and 100, with higher scores used to show higher engagement or moods.

It is unclear where the company intends to implement its plan and the software is not currently being implemented. But groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Jobs With Justice and the League of Muslim Justice, have called on Zoom to “stop researching” the technology altogether.

“Our emotional states and our innermost thoughts need to be freed from observation,” senior political analyst Daniel Lufer of Access Now said in a statement.

The groups claim that technology paves the way for discrimination against people with disabilities or certain ethnicities, assuming that everyone uses the same facial expressions, voice patterns and body language to communicate. The groups also say the software could pose a potential security risk to users, making their information vulnerable to “wiretapping and malicious hackers.”

Face recognition technology is generally problematic and tends to misidentify people, especially people of color, said Seeley George.

“We have seen this with technology as facial recognition, when it is used to identify people accused of committing crimes and pointing at someone for a crime they did not commit,” she said.

“Millions of people have started using it [Zoom] in their daily lives, to connect with friends and family, people use it for work, for school, so the number of people who could be affected by this is really huge. “

The groups asked Zoom to respond publicly to their request by the end of the month.

“You can see that this technology has no place in video communications,” the letter to Yuan said.

A spokesman for Zoom told CBS News that there was currently no statement in response to the joint letter.

Irina Ivanova from CBS News participates in the report.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/human-rights-groups-zoom-emotion-tracking-software-plans/

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