IBM quits facial recognition, joins call for police reforms

National News

FILE – In this Feb. 26, 2019, file photo commuters walk by surveillance cameras installed at a walkway in between two subway stations in Beijing. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace released a report Tuesday, Sept. 17, that found at least 75 countries are actively using AI tools such as facial recognition for surveillance. The new report says a growing number of countries are following China’s lead in deploying artificial intelligence to track citizens. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)

ARMONK, N.Y. (AP) — IBM says it is getting out of the facial recognition business over concern about how it can be used for mass surveillance and racial profiling.

A letter to U.S. lawmakers Monday from new IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said the tech giant “has sunset its general purpose facial recognition and analysis software products.”

Krishna was addressing Democrats who recently introduced police reform legislation in Congress in response to the death of George Floyd and others in law enforcement interactions that have sparked a worldwide reckoning over racial injustice.

IBM had previously tested its facial recognition software with the New York Police Department but it’s not clear if it has existing contracts with other governments.

Police use of facial recognition has come under heightened scrutiny after researchers found racial and gender disparities in systems built by companies including IBM, Microsoft and Amazon. That led IBM and Microsoft to improve their accuracy but Krishna said now is the time to debate whether facial recognition technology should be used at all by domestic law enforcement agencies.

Krishna’s letter called for broader police reforms and said “IBM firmly opposes and will not condone uses of any technology, including facial recognition technology offered by other vendors, for mass surveillance, racial profiling” and human rights violations.

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