IBM Quits Facial Recognition Over Rights Concerns

IBM has claimed it no longer sells facial recognition software and has called for a “national dialogue” on how it should be used by police in the wake of recent US protests against systemic racism.

In an open letter to Congress on racial justice reform, CEO Arvind Krishna revealed that the tech giant “has sunset its general purpose facial recognition and analysis software products.”

While technology can help to improve transparency and protect police it shouldn’t be used to promote discrimination, Krishna argued.

“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,” the letter continued.

“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.”

IBM added that AI technology in general can be a powerful tool for helping law enforcers keep the streets safe, but that both vendors and users 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.”

In the UK, a government-backed report from noted think tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) warned that AI-powered facial recognition and other technologies using machine learning such as predictive crime mapping and individual risk assessments can amplify discrimination if they’re based on flawed data containing bias.

That hasn’t stopped British police using facial recognition technology with increasing frequency, despite complaints by rights groups that it is racially biased, inaccurate and tramples on civil liberties.

Even privacy watchdog the ICO has warned forces to go slow and ensure any pilots comply with data protection laws, while a statutory code of practice is drawn up.

In the US, facial recognition tech has been banned in many cities.

However, IBM’s Krishna argued that technology can still have a positive role to play in modern policing, by bringing greater transparency and accountability through body cameras and “modern data analytics techniques.”

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