3 min read

Google, yesterday released a blog post titled ‘AI for Social Good in Asia Pacific’  where they mentioned they have “chosen not to offer general-purpose facial recognition APIs before working through important technology and policy questions”

According to senior vice president of Global Affairs Kent Walker, “Like many technologies with multiple uses, facial recognition merits careful consideration to ensure its use is aligned with our principles and values, and avoids abuse and harmful outcomes,” Google said. “We continue to work with many organizations to identify and address these challenges, and unlike some other companies, Google Cloud has chosen not to offer general-purpose facial recognition APIs before working through important technology and policy questions.”

Google, backed away from the military drone project and published ethical AI principles that prohibit weapons and surveillance usage, which face recognition falls under, in light of Project Maven with the U.S. Department of Defense.

The facial recognition technology has raised in popularity after finding popular use cases such as from entertainment industry to law enforcement agencies. Many companies have also faced a lot of pushback on how well they have handled their own technologies and whom they have sold it to.

According to Engadget, “Amazon, for instance, has come under fire for selling its Rekognition software to law enforcement groups, and civil rights groups, as well as its own investors and employees, have urged the company to stop providing its facial recognition technology to police. In a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos, employees warned about Rekognition’s potential to become a surveillance tool for the government, one that would “ultimately serve to harm the most marginalized.”

The American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement in support of today’s development from Google, stating, “This is a strong first step. Google today demonstrated that, unlike other companies doubling down on efforts to put dangerous face surveillance technology into the hands of law enforcement and ICE, it has a moral compass and is willing to take action to protect its customers and communities. Google also made clear that all companies must stop ignoring the grave harms these surveillance technologies pose to immigrants and people of color, and to our freedom to live our lives, visit a church, or participate in a protest without being tracked by the government.”

Amazon had also pitched its Rekognition software to ICE in October. “Yesterday during a hearing with the New York City Council, an Amazon executive didn’t deny having a contract with the agency, saying in response to a question about its involvement with ICE that the company provides Rekognition “to a variety of government agencies.” Lawmakers in the US have now asked Amazon for more information about Rekognition multiple times.”

“Microsoft also shared six principles it has committed to regarding its own facial recognition technology. Among those guidelines is a pledge to treat people fairly and to provide clear communication about the technology’s capabilities and limitations”, says Engadget.

ACLU’s Nicole Ozer said, “Google today demonstrated that, unlike other companies doubling down on efforts to put dangerous face surveillance technology into the hands of law enforcement and ICE, it has a moral compass and is willing to take action to protect its customers and communities. Google also made clear that all companies must stop ignoring the grave harms these surveillance technologies pose to immigrants and people of color, and to our freedom to live our lives, visit a church, or participate in a protest without being tracked by the government.”

To know more about this in detail, visit Google’s official blogpost.

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