IBM: It's Time to Talk About Police Use of Facial Recognition Tech

Company says it will no longer offer the technology
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 9, 2020 6:32 PM CDT
IBM Abandons Facial Recognition Technology
A camera with facial recognition capabilities hangs from a wall while being installed at Lockport High School in Lockport, NY.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson, File)

IBM says it is turning away from facial recognition technology—and the company thinks it's time for the country to take a hard look at its use by law enforcement. The company said in a letter to Congress that it will no longer offer, or research, "general purpose" facial recognition or analysis software, the Verge reports. CEO Arvind Krishna told lawmakers debating police reforms that the company "firmly opposes" the use of the software "for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms, or any purpose which is not consistent with our values." He called for a national dialogue on "whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies."

Krishna, noting that studies have shown that the technology is potentially biased against minorities, urged for increased use of technologies that would bring "greater transparency" to law enforcement, including data analytics body cameras, reports the BBC. Mutale Nkonde, director of the nonprofit AI For the People, tells the AP that while government contracts for facial recognition software are already dominated by other companies, "the symbolic nature of this is important." He says IBM's move will help make it "socially unacceptable for companies who tweet Black Lives Matter to do so while contracting with the police." (More facial recognition technology stories.)

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