IBM facial recognition programs cancelled

IBM Facial Recognition - IBM logo
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The technology giant has also called for public debate over law enforcement use of the tech.

The IBM facial recognition programs are being shut down as the tech giant calls for urgent public debate on if and how law enforcement should use this tech.

The company’s CEO sent a letter to Congress at the start of this week regarding AI’s responsible use.

CEO Arvind Krishna wrote that the company wants to work with lawmakers on its IBM facial recognition software to advance justice and racial equality through educational opportunities, police reform, and the technology’s responsible use.

“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,” said Krishna’s letter, underscoring that the tech company was no longer offering general purpose 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,” added Krishna.

While the IBM facial recognition programs shut down, the visual technology will also be limited.

According to a CNN Business report, the technology company intends to limit its visual technology, restricting it to “visual object detection”. This would still make it possible for manufacturing plants, farm crops and other large applications for the technology to benefit from it.

Krishna’s letter to Congress arrived closely on the heels of anti-racism protests across the United States and around the world in response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died while in police custody.

The issue with facial recognition technology at the moment is that it suffers from data science’s algorithmic bias, as has been clearly demonstrated in the bias against women and black people by AI-powered algorithms. A US government study in 2019 based on almost 200 facial recognition algorithms discovered evidence of widespread racial bias, underscoring the potential for misuse of technology like the IBM facial recognition software.

IBM Facial Recognition - IBM logoThe company has previously advocated for “precision regulation” of IBM facial recognition technology to make certain that human rights are protected, instead of simply issuing blanket bans on the tech.

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