IBM said it was easing off facial recognition, but now it’s doubling down

Facial recognition IBM logo on building

A new $69.8 million contract may have been signed in which IBM will be providing precisely that technology.

New media reports are showing that IBM, which had previously stated that it was greatly withdrawing from facial recognition technology, has now signed a new contract giving it a substantial focus on it.

The company denies that the deal it signed with the government is for general purpose biometric surveillance.

That said, human rights advocates have accused IBM of participating in precisely that potential use for the facial recognition technology.

Facial recognition - Person at computer -surveillance

As was reported by QR Code Press in 2020, the company announced three years ago that it was abandoning its work on the tech. This move was made as a result of concerns regarding mass surveillance, racial profiling, and other potential violations of human rights. The company now denies that its new $69.8 million contract with the government would make it possible to use the tech for “general purpose” biometric surveillance.

Back when the company announced that it was cancelling its facial recognition programs in June 2020, it was in the heart of the Black Lives Matter protests across the United States following the murder of George Floyd. At that time, Arvind Krishna, IBM chief exec, wrote a letter to congress saying that “general purpose” facial recognition tech would no longer be offered by the company.

The company’s CEO wrote to congress regarding the cessation of IBM’s participation in facial recognition tech.

“The fight against racism is as urgent as ever,” Krishna wrote. “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,” said the letter. Later in 2020, the company furthered its commitment, issuing a call for United States export controls to address the way the tech could be used overseas “to suppress dissent, to infringe on the rights of minorities, or to erase basic expectations of privacy.”

Now, IBM has signed a contract with the British government in support of a national biometrics platform’s development to support immigration and law enforcement officials, according to a recent report in The Verge.

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