Microsoft is the latest technology company to pledge not to sell facial recognition software to police in the U.S. Microsoft’s announcement Thursday preceded similar moves on Tuesday by IBM and Wednesday by Amazon.
On Wednesday, Amazon announced a one year ban on the use of its facial recognition technology for police departments. The company said in a short statement it would be pushing for “stronger regulations governing the ethical use of facial recognition technology.”
Earlier this week, IBM dovetails actions of both engineering behemoths. In a statement by Arvind Krishna, the new CEO of IBM, he said it would no longer provide general-purpose facial recognition or tools for research.
Facial Recognition Under Controversy
The movements align with a broader demand for law enforcement reforms and call for racial justice by social justice activists in the wake of Minneapolis, Minnesota police, George Floyd’s death and the weeks of protests that followed.
Since years the controversy on the use of facial recognition has been simmering. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have addressed major concerns regarding privacy, human rights and civil liberties.
Objections to the use of facial recognition by the police include a lack of residents’ consent to getting their biometric profiles recorded by law enforcement agencies. Civil liberties critics contend that the system is flawed and could result in wrongful detention or arrests. The EFF cites a 2012 FBI report (.pdf) that showed facial recognition accuracy levels for African Americans were lower than for other groups.
ACLU Files Lawsuit Homeland Security Department
In March, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Homeland Security Department (DHS) over the use of facial recognition technology in airports, condemning the “extraordinarily dangerous course” of the government to normalize facial surveillance as well as its secrecy in making precise details of the program public.
Currently, 22 airports use what is known as the Traveler Verification Service (TVS), which had scanned the faces of more than 20 million travellers entering and leaving the country as of June 2019, the ACLU said. Several major airlines have already partnered with the USA, including Delta, JetBlue and United Airlines. To develop this security network, Customs and Border Control, while more than 20 other airlines and airports have committed to using CBP’s face-matching technology
U.S. Transportation Department Creates Facial Recognition
Facial recognition too has come under fire. It applies to the global use of the technology to control coronavirus spread. The technology is seen as a zero-contact approach to detect and monitor individuals who are exposed to someone who is COVID-19 contaminated.
KHON2 News of Hawaii reported on Thursday that the U.S. Transportation Department is behind a facial recognition technology test at Honolulu International Airport.
Staunch privacy advocate U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, on Thursday, urged the Trump administration to stop “weaponizing” facial recognition technology against protesters. In a letter co-signed by U.S. Sens., Cory Booker and Sherrod Brown to Attorney General William Barr chided the federal law enforcement. Also, the Department of Homeland Security, Wyden reacted to it. It is for its use of facial recognition technology. It is on the peaceful protesters marching against the police killing of George Floyd.
California Passes Bill
One legal victory came last September when lawmakers in California passed a bill. It is prohibiting law enforcement from using facial recognition-equipped cameras. Meanwhile, a variety of legal threats are seeking to hinder the technology’s widespread use.
Last month, the ACLU sued Clearview AI, a facial recognition company headquartered in New York. It is for storing and selling billions of people’s biometric face-identification data. It is to third parties without their consent or knowledge.
Hoan Ton-Thatand, the founder of Clearview AI, has defended the activities and goals of his organization. He said he welcomes the debate on privacy, stating in various official studies. Also, the technology is intended to be used by law enforcement. It is to help resolve crimes and not infringe the privacy of people.
So, it’s uncertain whether or not Microsoft, Amazon and IBM. So, it is to have market influence and political resources to push new legislation. Meanwhile, the EFF recalls that there is a long list of facial recognition vending firms. Also, it includes 3 M, Cognitec, DataWorks Plus, Dynamic Imaging Technologies, FaceFirst and NEC Global