IBM says it’s exiting the facial recognition business

IBM’s chief executive officer Arvind Krishna today revealed that the company is sunsetting its “general-purpose” facial recognition business.

The announcement was revealed in Krishna’s letter to members of Congress Monday about racial justice reform. The letter included suggestions for legislation around police reform and the responsible use of technology, such as artificial intelligence, a tool often used in facial recognition and other surveillance software.

Krishna wrote that IBM “firmly opposes” the use of “any technology, including facial recognition technology offered by other vendors, for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms.” He asked for a “national dialogue” on how facial recognition should be used, if at all.

AI can help law enforcement keep citizens safe, Krishna wrote, and while he didn’t provide specific examples, he added that it’s crucial any bias in the development of any AI algorithms is identified and removed.

“But vendors and users of Al systems 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,” he explained.

He added national policy should also encourage and advance uses of body cameras and modern data analytics techniques to elevate the transparency in law enforcement.

The move also comes months after Clearview AI’s facial recognition solution raised eyebrows when it was discovered law enforcement, including the Toronto Police Service, was quietly piloting the technology.

And while IBM’s facial recognition business didn’t generate the company big bucks, as CNBC noted, the move is still a big deal considering two of IBM’s clients are the U.S. and Canadian federal governments.

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Alex Coop
Former Editorial Director for IT World Canada and its sister publications.

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