IBM no longer intends to offer general-purpose facial recognition our analysis software. IBM CEO Arvind Krishna announced this in a letter to Congress today. The company no longer wants to develop or research the technology. Krishna addresses the letters to Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).
The contents of the letter from Arvind Krishna:
“IBM firmly opposes and will not condone uses of any [facial recognition] 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 said in the letter. “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.”
Facial recognition software has advanced over the last decade because of AI advancement. At the same time, the technology suffers from bias along the lines of age, race, and ethnicity. This makes the tools unreliable for law enforcement and security. In addition to this, it is ripe for potential civil rights abuse and privacy violation. Such technology is generally provided by private companies with little to no regulation or federal oversight.
Research conducted by Joy Buolamwini and Timnit Gebru:
In 2018, Joy Buolamwini and Timnit Gebru conducted research that reveals the degree to which facial recognition technology holds bias. This includes IBM’s facial recognition as well. The research and subsequent studies led to criticism of the algorithms and ongoing attempts to rectify the bias.
December 2019 National Institute of Standards and Technology 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,” for example. The technology is facing criticism for its role in violating privacy.
How NIST avoided Amazon’s facial technology model:
It is important to note that NIST’s study does not include technology from Amazon. It is one of the few companies to sell facial recognition software to law enforcement. Yet, Rekognition has also been criticized because of its accuracy. In 2018 the American Civil Liberties Union found that Rekognition incorrectly matched 28 members of Congress. This happened against faces picked from 25000 public mugshots.
Another company called Clearview AI faces heavy scrutiny that started earlier this year. It was discovered that its facial recognition tool was used by private sector companies and law enforcement agencies. They have built the technology with more than 3 billion images while scraping social media sites. Clearview has been slapped with numerous cease and desist orders. Right now, it is at the center of various privacy lawsuits. Facebook was also ordered in January to pay $550 million. This was to settle a class-action lawsuit over its unlawful use of facial recognition technology.
Pictures are shared under Creative Commons License:
IBM has tried to help buyers with facial recognition. They released a public data set in 2018 that helps reduce bias. In addition to this, it also imported training data for the facial recognition model. But the company was also found to share a separate training data set of about 1 million pictures in January 2019. These pictures were taken from Flickr without asking for the consent of the said subjects. But the pictures were shared under a Creative Commons license.
At that time IBM said that the data will be accessible to verified researchers. It only included images that were publicly accessible. The company mentioned that individuals can opt out of the data set.
How Krishna advocates for police reforms:
Krishna also advocates for police reform in his letter. He argues that police misconduct cases should be put under the purview of the federal court. Moreover, Congress should make changes to the qualified immunity doctrine within other measures. Additionally, Krishna emphasized the need to create more open and equitable pathways for all Americans,” and he suggested Congress consider scaling the P-TECH school model nationally and expanding eligibility for Pell Grants.