Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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IBM no longer developing facial recognition

IBM CEO Arvind Krishna in a letter to Congress:

IBM no longer offers general purpose IBM facial recognition or analysis software. IBM firmly opposes and will not condone uses of any technology, including facial recognition technology offered by other vendors, for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms, or any purpose which is not consistent with our values and Principles of Trust and Transparency. We believe now is the time to begin a national dialogue on whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies.
Artificial Intelligence is a powerful tool that can help law enforcement keep citizens safe. But vendors and users of Al systems have a shared responsibility to ensure that Al is tested for bias, particularity when used in law enforcement, and that such bias testing is audited and reported.
Finally, national policy also should encourage and advance uses of technology that bring greater transparency and accountability to policing, such as body cameras and modern data analytics techniques.

As Ars Technica’s Kate Cox points out, IBM is currently in the midst of a reorganization, so it may be that facial recognition was getting the axe anyway, but the rationale presented by Krishna is still sound. Facial recognition is problematic, especially for people of color, and it’s already being widely deployed around the world, often without consideration of its limitations, downsides, and inherent biases.

Krishna also advocates for police reform and providing more pathways for people of color to acquire the skills needed for jobs in the tech industry.

The letter also stands in stark contrast to another tech giant, Amazon, which has not only been providing facial recognition systems to law enforcement, but has at least considered the possibility of implementing such technology in its consumer-oriented Ring doorbell and security cameras–which could then potentially be accessed by police.


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