Big Blue to support police reform and policy discussions on how to better use the technology
As Black Lives Matter protests continue, IBM announced it’s withdrawing from the facial recognition security service market and will support police reform efforts.
The Lowdown: In its announcement, IBM did not specially link the decision to end development of its facial recognition service to the Black Lives Matter protests or the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. However, CEO Arvind Krishna did say that IBM supports police reform efforts and will support a “national dialogue” on how technologies such as facial recognition should be used.
The Details: IBM’s facial recognition service provides access to scanning technology and the world’s largest and diverse facial identity database. Through the service, IBM provided government, law enforcement, and security services with the base information for leveraging facial recognition technology. While IBM claimed the largest and most diverse facial recognition database, it’s just one of several such services in the market. Critics say the technology by all vendors underperforms and is unreliable.
IBM gave no indication if the decision to end the facial recognition service’s development will affect its visual recognition business, which provides technology and resources for using visual images to identify objects.
The Impact: IBM’s decision places it on a growing list of technology companies supporting police reforms and government action around justice inequalities. The chorus of businesses and executives joining the protests will add to pressure on the government to take action.
From a business and channel perspective, IBM didn’t say how the decision will impact its independent software vendors (ISVs) and integrators that utilize and deploy the facial recognition service. In this architecture, IBM provides the core software and database, while partners use APIs to connect their applications and hardware.
The Buzz: “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,” wrote IBM CEO Arvind Krishna. “Technology can increase transparency and help police protect communities but must not promote discrimination or racial injustice.”