The use of facial recognition technology by U.S. law enforcement agencies isn’t dead, despite the withdrawal this week of Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com Inc. from the market. The tech giants have pulled back temporarily after the introduction of a police reform bill in Congress this week that, among other things, would ban federal law enforcement officers from using facial recognition on body camera footage without a warrant. The bill was introduced in the wake of protests and the death of George Floyd in police custody. Amazon and Microsoft are some of the more recognizable names serving the market, but there are other sizable players, including NEC Corp. , as well as a number of smaller companies selling to police agencies...Even though some companies plan to continue selling the technology, they are likely to face a tougher market in the U.S., analysts said, amid legislative action to restrict the technology. Police departments also may move to curtail their usage of the technology for budgetary reasons as they face mounting calls for defunding, said Mutale Nkonde, a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University, a research center focused on the relationship between technology and society.
IBM is getting out of the facial recognition business, saying it's concerned about how the technology can be used for mass surveillance and racial profiling. Ongoing protests responding to the death of George Floyd have sparked a broader reckoning over racial injustice and a closer look at the use of police technology to track demonstrators and monitor American neighborhoods. IBM is one of several big tech firms that had earlier sought to improve the accuracy of their face-scanning software after research found racial and gender disparities. But its new CEO is now questioning whether it should be used by police at all...IBM's decision to stop building and selling facial recognition software is unlikely to affect its bottom line, since the tech giant is increasingly focused on cloud computing while an array of lesser-known firms have cornered the market for government facial recognition contracts. “But the symbolic nature of this is important,” said Mutale Nkonde, a research fellow at Harvard and Stanford universities who directs the nonprofit AI For the People. Nkonde said IBM shutting down a business “under the guise of advancing anti-racist business practices” shows that it can be done and makes it "socially unacceptable for companies who tweet Black Lives Matter to do so while contracting with the police.”
Even if you’re sitting at home on your couch, there’s a chance you could be arrested for protesting. How? If the police force in your area is using any kind of facial recognition software to identify protesters, it’s possible you could be misidentified as one. Most facial recognition was trained to identify white male faces, experts told Digital Trends, which means the probability of misidentification for anyone who is not white and not a man is much higher...A facial recognition system prone to false positives could cause innocent people to be arrested, according to Mutale Nkonde, a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center of Internet & Society at Harvard University and a non-resident fellow at the Digital Civil Society Lab at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. “Police will use the mug shots of people who have been committed for other crimes to train facial recognition, arguing that if you’ve committed one crime, then you’ve committed another,” Nkonde said. “First off, that’s unconstitutional. Second, that means that if you’ve been arrested for looting in the past, but haven’t looted recently, the police could now come arrest you for looting in May or June because your picture is in the system and it may have turned up a false positive.”
An officer shoving a protester to the ground. Two New York Police Department cars ramming demonstrators. Police using batons, bicycles and car doors as weapons. These are becoming defining images of the protests against police brutality of black people that have swept the nation, sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Countless videos of these moments have been shared on social media. Among the most-seen of them: a compilation video created on Saturday. Jordan Uhl, a political consultant and activist in Washington, D.C., wanted to make sure as many people saw these videos as possible. Encouraged by a friend, he edited together 14 clips, including one from a reporter at The New York Times of an officer accelerating and opening a car door that hit protesters...Mutale Nkonde, a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, said that Mr. Uhl’s video “really reinforces that black protests, white protests and all social justice protests generally are not violent in nature. It moves us away from the ‘there are bad people on both sides’ or ‘there are good people on both sides’ argument and really highlights law enforcement’s aggressive attitude toward black people displaying their rights.”