Skip to Content
Artificial intelligence

IBM says it is no longer working on face recognition because it’s used for racial profiling

Teguhjati Pras | Pixabay

The news: IBM has said the company will stop developing or selling facial recognition software due to concerns the technology is used to promote racism. In a letter to Congress, IBM’s CEO Arvind Krishna said the tech giant opposes any technology used “for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms.”

He called for a “national dialogue” on whether and how it is appropriate for facial recognition technology to be used by domestic law enforcement agencies. The letter also called for new federal rules to crack down on police misconduct, and more training and education for in-demand skills to improve economic opportunities for people of color.

Not a new concern: Activists and experts have been pointing out for years that facial recognition systems are biased, and flagging concerns about its potential for abuse. Their concerns are legitimate: a landmark study by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology last year confirmed that the majority of facial recognition algorithms performed worse on non-white faces.

How it’s been received: IBM is the first big tech company to withdraw from developing the technology altogether. Although the news has broadly been received positively by tech workers, and in particular campaigners worried about the use of facial recognition, critics have pointed out that it’s hardly a great sacrifice for IBM to quit a market that it barely had a foothold in to begin with.

Despite that, it’s still a big tech company taking an unusually strong moral stance over one of the most controversial topics of the day. It’s particularly timely given the ongoing protests over police violence and racism in the US and around the world. But it’s unclear whether it will remain a one-off change by IBM or a move that helps to nudge other tech companies into action.

Deep Dive

Artificial intelligence

Yann LeCun
Yann LeCun

Yann LeCun has a bold new vision for the future of AI

One of the godfathers of deep learning pulls together old ideas to sketch out a fresh path for AI, but raises as many questions as he answers.

images created by Google Imagen
images created by Google Imagen

The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images

Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.

AGI is just chatter for now concept
AGI is just chatter for now concept

The hype around DeepMind’s new AI model misses what’s actually cool about it

Some worry that the chatter about these tools is doing the whole field a disservice.

AI and robotics concept
AI and robotics concept

AI’s progress isn’t the same as creating human intelligence in machines

Honorees from this year's 35 Innovators list are employing AI to find new molecules, fold proteins, and analyze massive amounts of medical data.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.