IBM Sunsets Facial Recognition Technology, Opposes Use for Racial Profiling

Company hopes to launch national dialogue on the technology's use

While IBM may not be the leader in Facial Recognition, its decision to drop the technology is a shot in the arm for those who believe such technology and mass surveillance unfairly targets minorities.

Facial Recognition
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IBM is getting out of the facial recognition software business. The company announced the decision in a letter from company CEO Arvind Krishna to Congress on Monday.

Why the concern: Facial recognition software has a history of unfairly targeting minorities and women. IBM, which has sold its recognition software and analysis tools to countries around the world, previously argued that we shouldn't be banning such software, as that could cut us off from other benefits these technologies offer.

What IBM is saying now: The company announced it's no longer offering the general-purpose facial recognition tools and says, "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..."

Looking at you, Amazon: While Krishna's letter does not mention Amazon and it's controversial Rekognition program by name, he does call for "national dialogue" on if facial recognition technology should be deployed by law enforcement.

Bottom line: After stepping back from promoting its facial recognition software for months, this move is not, from a business perspective quite as dramatic as it appears. However, from a social standpoint, it's a signal to other companies selling facial recognition technology to law enforcement, especially as millions of Americans march in cities to support Black Lives Matter, but do not want to be profiled by law enforcement mass surveillance systems.

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