Towards causal benchmarking of bias in face analysis algorithms

Guha Balakrishnan, Yuanjun Xiong, Wei Xia, Pietro Perona ;


Measuring algorithmic bias is crucial both to assess algorithmic fairness, and to guide the improvement of algorithms. Current bias measurement methods in computer vision are based on observational datasets, and conflate algorithmic bias with dataset bias. To address this problem we develop an experimental method for measuring algorithmic bias of face analysis algorithms, which directly manipulates the attributes of interest, e.g., gender and skin tone, in order to reveal causal links between attribute variation and performance change. Our method is based on generating synthetic image grids that differ along specific attributes while leaving other attributes constant. A crucial aspect of our approach is relying on the perception of human observers, both to guide manipulations, and to measure algorithmic bias. We validate our method by comparing it to a traditional observational bias analysis study in gender classification algorithms. The two methods reach different conclusions. While the observational method reports gender and skin color biases, the experimental method reveals biases due to gender, hair length, age, and facial hair. We also show that our synthetic transects allow for more straightforward bias analysis on minority and intersectional groups."

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