IBM ends facial recognition business, calls for testing AI for bias

Technology giant IBM has terminated its general purpose facial recognition and analysis software products, said the company’s CEO Arvind Krishna in a letter to the US Congress.

In his letter on Monday, the IBM CEO said that users of Artificial Intelligence-based systems have a shared responsibility to ensure that Al is tested for bias, particularity when used in law enforcement.

It is important to ensure that such bias testing is audited and reported, he said in the letter that offered some policy proposals to advance racial equality in the US.

“IBM no longer offers general purpose IBM facial recognition or analysis software,” the IBM CEO said in the letter .

“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,” he said.

Often touted as a tool that can help law enforcement agencies to quickly track criminals, facial recognition technology has courted controversy for the enormous potential of its misuse and lack of regulation.

A study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the US, published in December 2019, found “empirical evidence for the existence of a wide range of accuracy across demographic differences in the majority of the current face recognition algorithms that were evaluated.”

Several technology companies have faced scrutiny for their use of facial recognition technology.

Facebook in January agreed to pay $550 million to settle a 2015 class-action privacy lawsuit against its use of facial recognition technology in a US state.

New York-based Clearview AI recently said in a legal filing that it will not make its facial recognition app available to non-governmental customers anywhere.

The company came under immense pressure after a BuzzFeed News investigation in February revealed that over 2,200 police departments, government agencies, and companies across 27 countries had got access to Clearview AI’s facial recognition tool.