IBM will no longer sell facial recognition software and calls for “national dialogue”

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A swathe of technology companies have been changing the way they operate in the wake of anti-racism protests that erupted following the murder of George Floyd a couple of weeks ago. The latest to make a change is IBM, with the company confirming that it will no longer be selling facial recognition software.

IBM CEO, Arvind Krishna, announced the change earlier this week, while also affirming the company’s support of the Justice in Policing Act (PDF).

“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,” Krishna explained in a statement to CNBC.

This latest decision while drastic on face value, is in keeping with the firm’s recent actions as it pertains to data used for facial recognition software.

As TechCrunch points out, the firm announced a new database of that it would be working with last year, and as such looks to be approaching facial recognition with a greater focus on ethics and responsibility.

Whether this is simply a gesture being made during a time when racism has come under the spotlight remains to be seen, but given the inherit bias we’ve seen in AI in the past, making sure that facial recognition software is developed ethically will prove important.

With the practices of technology companies coming into sharper focus of late, it will be interesting to see if other firms follow IBM and its lead when it comes to ethics and tackling racial bias.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

When he's not reviewing the latest smartphones, Robin-Leigh is writing about everything tech-related from IoT and smart cities, to 5G and cloud computing. He's also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games.