Tech Companies Pull Back on Face Surveillance

June 11, 2020

Amid nationwide protests against police brutality and racist policing, three major technology firms said this week that they would abandon or prohibit law enforcement agencies from using their facial surveillance technologies. On Monday, IBM announced that it would no longer offer “general purpose IBM facial recognition or analysis software” and that it opposes the use of such technology for “mass surveillance, racial profiling, [and] violations of basic human rights and freedoms.” On Wednesday, Amazon said it would prohibit law enforcement agencies from using its facial surveillance software for one year and urged Congress to “place stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition technology.” And on Thursday, Microsoft reiterated that it will “not sell facial-recognition technology to police departments in the United States until we have a national law in place, grounded in human rights, that will govern this technology.” EPIC has launched a campaign to Ban Face Surveillance and through the Public Voice coalition gathered the support of over 100 organizations and many leading experts across 30-plus countries. An EPIC-led coalition has also called on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to recommend the suspension of face surveillance systems across the federal government.

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