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IBM Discontinues Facial Recognition Technology, Says It Can't Condone 'Racial Profiling' Or 'Mass Surveillance'

IBM Discontinues Facial Recognition Technology, Says It Can't Condone 'Racial Profiling' Or 'Mass Surveillance'

International Business Machines Corporation (NYSE: IBM) Chief Executive Officer Arvind Krishna said on Monday the company is no longer offering general purpose facial recognition or analysis software, CNBC reported.

What Happened

"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," Krishna wrote in a letter to United States Congress.

"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."

The IBM CEO said artificial intelligence can be a "powerful tool" to help law enforcement keep citizens safe, but there is a need to ensure that the technology is "tested for bias," and such bias is audited and reported.

Sources familiar with the matter told CNBC that the facial recognition business wasn't profitable to the company, and the decision was based both on ethical and practical grounds.

Why It Matters

Krishna was writing to Congress calling for police reforms in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd and the resultant widespread protests across the U.S.

Floyd, a Minneapolis black man, died following an encounter with the police, after a law enforcement officer knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, even as Floyd fell unconscious, an official complaint in the matter said.

The death of Floyd again highlighted the problem of systematic racial profiling in the country. Major technology giants, including Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), have faced criticism for inherent racial bias in their facial recognition technology.

IBM Price Action

IBM shares closed 2.8% higher at $135.75 on Monday. The shares traded nearly 0.4% lower in the after-hours session at $135.28.


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