Kennesaw State Partners with Equifax

Abbey O’Brien Barrows

Thursday, April 20th, 2023

Through its ongoing partnership with Atlanta-based global data, analytics, and technology company Equifax, Kennesaw State has launched a second research lab, the AI Ethics Lab. The new research lab will focus on studying the use of artificial intelligence in the U.S. financial services industry.

According to MinJae Woo, assistant professor of statistics and data science at Kennesaw State University, it is important that credit models used to make financial decisions are transparent and explainable, so consumers can understand the outcome of decisions. As the AI Ethics Lab’s director, Woo will work with two doctoral students to establish methods that will help identify how an AI-powered process may create different outcomes than traditional models and the potential impact of these differences.

“We live in a time when AI is coming to a variety of fields,” Woo said. “Studying how AI indirectly acquires information is key to ensuring discrimination and unintended ethical issues do not arise within the models.”

This is the second collaboration between the University and Equifax. In 2017, Kennesaw State’s Equifax Data Science Research Lab was launched with a mission to investigate business challenges and opportunities created by non-traditional sources of consumer and commercial data. The success of the data science lab, combined with Woo’s AI research, prompted Equifax to approach KSU about starting a new lab.

“As one of the first patent holders for explainable AI in credit risk modeling, Equifax understands the importance in studying the impacts of how the technology is used by data scientists and our customers,” Christopher Yasko, chief data scientist at Equifax, said. “Expanding our work with KSU builds our academic partnerships, fueling the innovators of tomorrow while they focus on issues that can help move our industry and business forward.”

According to Woo, the field of AI ethics is still in its infancy, but it’s a growing area. Last December, three KSU doctoral students graduated from the School of Data Science and Analytics – all three worked on data ethics during their studies, and each secured a position focused on the topic.

Equifax has been applying machine learning, a subset of artificial intelligence, for at least two decades. As a leader in explainable AI, its research efforts include more than 25 current and pending patents related to AI. Joseph White, distinguished data scientist at Equifax, leads Equifax’s participation in the new AI Ethics Lab at KSU.

“Our team is excited to work with Kennesaw State University to explore how models can remain fair and consistent across a wide range of both known and unknown dimensions,” White said. “The new lab will have four components that can be explored over time – privacy, robustness, explainability and fairness.”

Woo and his team have been analyzing data provided by Equifax. Next, they will study models and create hypotheses to help find and address any unintended disparities.