It seems that impressions on law enforcement are changing, now several major tech companies have announced their plans to stop selling facial recognition software to police, or to stop developing it entirely. These include Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM. Amazon recently announced that it will be putting facial recognition deals with the police on hold for at least a year, though no specific reason was given. But it is timely in the sense that other companies in the industry are considering similar actions.
Amazon said in a statement, “ 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.” And just a few days prior to this announcement by Amazon, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said that the company would cease to develop the technology completely, and openly voiced support for the protests against systematic oppression.
“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 Priciples 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,” Krishna stressed.
Police and government agencies have been relying on facial recognition technology to hunt for suspects, despite the fact that the software is notorious for falsely identifying innocent people as criminals. In a recent case, Amazon’s facial recognition technology erroneously identified 27 different professional athletes as criminals. Though it may be true that some professional football players get into trouble with the law from time to time, it is obvious that there is a flaw in the software. According to other information, data from the South Wales police showed that there were false-positive rates of up to 90 percent for different events. Similarly, in 2016, the FBI admitted that their facial recognition database consisted mostly of innocent people, since they use driver’s license and passport photos for their searches, in addition to mug shots. Truth be told, it seems there is a 50/50 chance that your picture is in a facial recognition database! Another study found out that people with darker skin are more targeted by facial recognition software.
Microsoft is the most recent company to announce that they are reconsidering some of their business relationships with the police force in response to ongoing protests. Facial recognition software will not be sold to police unless there are sufficient regulations in place, and that it is not being used unethically, or unjustly. Microsoft president Brad Smith said, “We will not sell facial recognition tech to police in the US until there is a national law in place…we must pursue a national law to govern facial recognition grounded in the protection of human rights.”
Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon will not experience a large financial loss, since this is not their main money earner, and they are not the primary companies selling to the police. Well, hopefully the primary companies follow their example, in the pursuit of human rights and efficient criminal identification.
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Credits: True Activist