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Why IBM abandoned facial recognition, and more tech news you need to know today

Is IBM doing the right thing, or walking away from a problem it can fix? Plus more tech news you need to know, today!

Published onJune 9, 2020

Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Tuesday, June 9. 

1. IBM abandons facial recognition tech, and more

IBM will no longer offer, develop, or research facial recognition technology, and opposes the use of such tech for mass surveillance.

What happened:

  • IBM CEO Arvind Krishna wrote to Congress yesterday, noting, “IBM no longer offers general purpose IBM facial recognition or analysis software.”
  • “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. We believe now is the time to begin a national dialogue on whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies.”


  • What’s implied is the problems with bias. Research back in 2018 published to found that many facial recognition tools, including IBM, were biased. At the time, IBM’s Watson Visual Recognition API was ranked as the worst, failing to bias along lines of age, race, and ethnicity.
  • When these tools are used by law enforcement and security, it creates problematic use cases with potential impact on civil rights: the automated systems are not neutral.
  • The Algorithmic Justice League notes: “AI governs access to information, opportunity and freedom. However, AI systems can perpetuate racism, sexism, ableism, and other harmful forms of discrimination, therefore, presenting significant threats to our society – from healthcare, to economic opportunity, to our criminal justice system.”
  • The Verge has more details on Amazon’s facial recognition software called Rekognition and its issues, and Facebook’s $550 million lawsuit over its unlawful use of facial recognition technology.

What now?

  • There’s a divide between taking IBM on its word here, or if IBM simply threw in the towel to its competitors, as former Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson points out.
  • CNBC noted “IBM’s facial recognition business did not generate significant revenue for the company.”
  • But IBM implied the decision has been made over the course of months, with this the first public acknowledgment.
  • IBM’s stance and potential capitulation still doesn’t make IBM’s position wrong.
  • At the same time, IBM may have been able to do better rather than no longer participate in the problematic space.
  • It had already released a diverse training data set of faces, but it’s possible the company could make a similar commitment and continue to focus on becoming a leader in reducing bias through driving best-in-class data and training, and keep less conscionable players accountable.
  • In this space, Microsoft had faced backlash earlier in the year for investing in AnyVision, an Israeli facial-recognition startup “alleged to have deployed facial recognition in a way that conflicted with Microsoft’s own ethical principles against its use for mass, ongoing surveillance,” per ZDNet. Microsoft said then it won’t make any further minority investments in companies that sell the technology, as it is unable to check for compliance.

2. Samsung is reportedly teaming up with Corning for ultra-thin glass: tech could be ready for Samsung’s 2021 foldable devices (Android Authority).

3. The new OnePlus Z rumors make this old OnePlus fan happy (Android Authority).

4. Coming soon to Google Meet is machine learning-based noise cancellation, aiming to drown out background clinks and bumps, and non-speaker chatter. Here’s how it works, with training data coming from thousands of Google’s own meetings, and YouTube videos of large groups of people talking (VentureBeat).

5. Review: Logitech’s iPad keyboard is the Magic Keyboard for Everyone Else (Gizmodo).

6. Twitter clumsily fact-checks ‘5G corona’ tweets (Engadget).

7. Here’s how Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri answer the question, ‘Do black lives matter?’ (The Verge).

8. Tesla battery supplier Catl says new design has one million-mile lifespan (BBC).

9. offers 700 indie games in a pay-what-you-want racial justice bundle (

10. Good space pharmacy required: If humans want to live longterm in space, they’ll need medicines, but research is scarce for now (Ars Technica).

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