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IBM Drops Facial Recognition Software In Support of Racial Justice

By Anders Bylund - Jun 9, 2020 at 10:26AM

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Big Blue is taking concrete business steps to combat racial inequality and support a stronger justice system.

Computing giant IBM (IBM 0.10%) is taking a stand for racial equality. In a public letter addressed to members of Congress, Big Blue proposed some policy changes related to police reform and racial justice. To support these ideas, the company also exited the market for general-purpose facial recognition software and analytics.

IBM's racial justice ideas

In the letter, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna wrote that the U.S. needs stronger federal oversight of police operations. The proposed changes include a broader application of federal court purview to cases of police misconduct, a federal registry of police misconduct filings, and stronger rights for individuals to seek damages when law enforcement officers violate their constitutional rights. IBM also suggested that the federal government should urge state and local authorities to review and improve their use-of-force directives.

A gavel on a wooden base in a blue-colored mist. Characters on a laptop screen are visible in the background.

Image source: Getty Images.

Krishna noted that many of these ideas were included in the proposed Justice In Policing Act of 2020, which was introduced by the five named Senators and Representatives to whom IBM addressed this letter. The company supports that proposal and will push for a "broad bipartisan legislation that can be enacted into law."

The business impact

Big Blue has some skin in the game. The company has now abandoned its general-purpose facial recognition software and services.

"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," Krishna wrote.

The financial impact of this decision is unclear but facial recognition services sit at the crossroads of artificial intelligence, security, the Internet of Things, and cloud computing. These overlapping markets are exactly what IBM is about these days, so the decision to step away from facial recognition was not taken lightly.

Anders Bylund owns shares of IBM. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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