IBM, Microsoft, Amazon: are companies’ stepping back from FR’s technologies?

On June 10 2020, Amazon announced that the company was “putting in place a one-year moratorium on police use of Amazon’s facial recognition technology” : Rekognition.

‘‘We’ve advocated that governments should put in place stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition technology, and in recent days, Congress appears ready to take on this challenge. We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested’’.

 

Amazon states that it always supported that ‘‘governments should work quickly to put in place effective regulatory frameworks and guardrails for facial recognition technology’’ as these systems are ‘‘already solving some complex problems’’. Amazon warned that ‘‘facial recognition is two sided, meaning it can also be misused’’. 

These concerns echo IBM’s decision, on June 08, 2020, to get out of the facial recognition business following a letter from IBM CEO, Arvind Krishna to the Congress outlining detailed policy proposals to advance the fight against racial equality in United-States. 

In a context of huge protestations due to George Floyd’s death and the underlying issue of systemic racism across the US, IBM’s letter recalls that there should be a “responsible use of technology by law enforcement”. Otherwise, IBM chose to no longer offer its general purpose facial recognition and analysis software products.

‘‘IBM no longer offers general purpose IBM 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 and Principles of Trust and Transparency. 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’’.

Amazon and IBM are following a current trend among American tech giants. In January 2020, in the framework of a speech in Brussels, Google CIO Sundar Pichai, stated that Google will not provide facial recognition technology systems to law enforcement unless safeguards are established. On June 11, 2020, Microsoft President Brad Smith, wrote that the company has joined the list of tech giants that have decided to limit the use of its facial-recognition systems and that it ‘‘will not sell the controversial technology to police departments until there is a federal law regulating it’’.

 

‘’Artificial Intelligence is a powerful tool that can help law enforcement keep citizens safe. 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’’.

Source: IBM CEO, Arvind Krishna to the U.S Congress 

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