Don’t let a robot stalk your babysitter
The AI social media-screening service Predictim has a very simple job that it appears to be very bad at.
Yesterday, the uncritical information-conveyors at Axios posted a story about Predictim, a service that uses artificial intelligence to screen the social media posts of potential babysitters and/or dog-walkers. Predictim’s website features a demo showcasing a case study for a young woman named Risky Rebecca (screen grab above), whose social media posts indicate that she’s a drug-abusing bully with bad attitude who you shouldn’t leave in charge of your child and/or dog. (The demo also displays social media statistics for another young woman, Notrisky Nancy, who has never been disrespectful online.)
As with many security-oriented startups, the demo meant to serve as proof that Predictim works actually has the opposite effect. While it’s laughable that any parent would need an algorithm to help figure out that it’s a bad idea to hire a babysitter named Risky Rebecca whose Facebook photo is pretty clearly a mugshot, Predictim’s own demo fucks up at the thing it’s actually supposed to do. If you click the tab on Risky Rebecca’s profile that says “Drug Abuse” and then click “Show Flagged Posts,” you see the following:
Computer — ENHANCE!
THAT’S NOT EVEN A PHOTO OF RISKY REBECCA SMOKING WEED!!!! WHAT DOES A PICTURE OF SOMEONE ELSE SMOKING WEED TELL YOU ABOUT THEIR TRUSTWORTHINESS?? I AM OFFICIALLY MAD. ONLINE.
The fact that Predictim exists at all says a lot about where we are today. Essentially, it’s a service that hopes to use a buzzy technology like machine learning to cash in on parental fear while having no practical benefit. Additionally, it suggests that we live in a world where parents no longer find babysitters the old-fashioned way — through asking your friends who are fellow parents who they get to babysit for them, or enlisting a friend’s teenage child to hang out with your kid for a while. Do parents not have friends these days? Does anyone have friends? What is friendship? Will an AI be my friend? Predictim, which I just realized is probably short for “PREDICT if you will be a victIM of this teen,” has broken my brain.