BAIR cannot distinguish between pictures of faces and pornographic images


This report is a follow-up to our first report published on June 6, 2000. Our first report describes how you can set up the BAIR filter to test it for yourself, and lists relevant quotes and statements from the manufacturer, Exotrope, so we will not repeat that information here. Since we re-used the sample of "50 random pornographic images" and "50 random non-pornographic images" that we used the first time around, see our first report for the details of how we collected those images (we kept records of the image collection process to ensure that we would be using a fairly-chosen random sample).

When we re-tested the BAIR filter on July 18, 2000, we found that 34 out of 50 of the images from our first experiment were now blocked by BAIR. Of the non-pornographic images from our first experiment, only 8 of them were blocked. (Also, adding "?abc" or "?123" to the end of the image URL's did not seem to cause them to be blocked or unblocked any differently, so the BAIR filter had become less random. In our first experiment, adding "?abc" to the URL of some blocked images would cause them to be unblocked even though the content was identical.)

However, we also collected a random sample of pictures of people's faces, to see how many of those would be blocked by BAIR's image filter. The face pictures were chosen from the Love@AOL personals site, where we entered a search for all personals of "women seeking men", all ages (18-99), in Anchorage, Alaska, the first city in AOL's drop-down list. This produced a list of 52 pictures, so we used the first 50. (As we did in our first report, we make sure the images are selected in such a way that it would be impossible for us to "stack the deck" by only using images that support our results; the fairest way to do this was to use the method just described to select the "first 50" pictures on AOL's personals site.)

Out of the 50 face pictures, 34 were blocked by BAIR, the exact same number of pornographic pictures that were blocked out of 50. We conclude that BAIR has only neglible ability, if any, to distinguish between pornographic pictures and pictures of people's faces.

The following is the list of personal ad photos that we tested against the BAIR filter, after copying the photos to separate location and trying to load them through BAIR. (We hope the authors of these personal ads will not consider it a violation of their privacy to post these links here, since they chose to post their personal ads on the Web anyway; if the authors of any of the personal ads were to delete their ad from AOL, then the link below would cease to work.)