International Business Machines (IBM) - Get Report will no longer offer its facial recognition and analysis technology and software products for general-purpose use amid concerns about how it is used to profile people along racial and ethnic lines.
The company has called for a national dialogue on whether it should be used at all.
In a letter to Congress written in support of the Justice and Policing Act, CEO Arvind Krishna said 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.”
The CEO added it was important to begin a national dialogue on "whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies.”
The move comes less than two weeks after the killing of George Floyd, whose death under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer has sparked widespread calls for change in how institutions and individuals deal with race in blatantly unequal fashion.
The technology has increasingly been used by law enforcement in recent years, but studies have revealed that bias in the technology leads to a disproportionate targeting of people along the lines of race or ethnicity, as well as violation of privacy.
Krishna noted that artificial Intelligence was a "powerful tool" for law enforcement but "vendors and users of (artificial intelligence) systems have a shared responsibility to ensure that Al is tested for bias, particularity when used in law enforcement, and that such bias testing is audited and reported."
To be sure, IBM isn't the only company offering facial recognition technology that is being used in discriminatory ways.
Amazon.com (AMZN) - Get Report has come under fire from the American Civil Liberties Union as well as its own shareholders over its “Rekognition” facial recognition technology that was sold to the likes of ICE and police departments.
Shares of IBM were down 3.32% at $131.24 in trading on Tuesday.