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The largest manufacturer of police body cameras rejects the possibility of selling facial recognition technologies – at least for now.
Axon, formerly known as Taser International, has worked with more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies worldwide and has a product suite of body cameras and software. It is said that 48 out of 79 major urban law enforcement agencies in North America are Axon customers.
On Thursday, the company announced that it is following the recommendation of an independent ethics committee founded last year following the acquisition of two artificial intelligence companies.
In a 42-page report, the Ethics Panel noted that face recognition technology is not advanced enough for law enforcement to rely on it, confirming critics' concerns.
The panel's concerns ranged from "data protection costs to racial justice". "Barry Friedman, director of the New York University School of Laws police project, told NPR."
Technology has made certain groups vulnerable, Friedman said, and was less precise in identifying the faces of women than men and women The same was true for colored people who were harder to identify than white persons.
The board also referred to privacy concerns that have long been voiced by activists. " fair – and we emphasize in detail that this is not the case at present – the technology makes it easier for government agencies to oversee citizens and possibly intervene in their lives, "the report said.
Panel members were experts for artificial intelligence, computer scientists, privacy advocates, police chiefs and other specialists. Despite their diverse backgrounds, Friedman said the Board's conclusions were unanimous. (Each member received a small fee from Axon for his work, Friedman adds.)
He hoped Axon's rejection of facial recognition software would set a precedent in the industry. "One of the most encouraging signs is that Axon listened to us when we repeatedly said that the customer is not the law enforcement agency that buys the equipment, but the community that serves the agency," he said.
Mike Wagers, Axon According to NPR, Vice President Emerging Markets, the risks clearly outweighed the benefits. "We made the decision that providing a particular technology is not right," he said. "They are thinking about how this could be done on the street," he added.
Concerns over facial recognition technology have been on the rise for years: the question arises as to who should control the body-roll footage and whether it is intended as such tool to hold the police accountable; There is a fear that law enforcement agencies could attack lawful demonstrators and violate their constitutional rights. There is also the possibility that the technology will lead to mass surveillance, as is the case in China.
Jake Laperruque, chief adviser to a monitoring organization called Project On Government Oversight, told NPR that Axon's decision is an important indication of how "we can not expect the company to keep that promise or follow other vendors – the only one To really protect the public from full face recognition monitoring is to pass laws that restrict that, "he said.
Some places have already taken measures to ban facial recognition software. Last month, San Francisco was the first city to ban technology for law enforcement and government agencies. Similar measures are currently under consideration in Oakland and Massachusetts. In California too, lawmakers are considering a nationwide ban on facial recognition programs.
But elsewhere in the US, technology is being pursued. According to the New York Times, Detroit has signed a $ 1 million software contract to monitor "hundreds of private and public cameras across the city, including gas stations, restaurants, churches and schools. Last year, Orlando police tested Amazon's real-time detection systems – a discovery made by the ACLU when an Amazon Recognition manager described the city as a customer.
Axon CEO and Founder Rick Smith did not rule out the possibility of face recognition technology when talking to NPR last year. He said it was "counterproductive to claim that a technology is unethical and should never be developed, and what we need to do is look at how this technology could evolve." with Amazon Recognition or other facial recognition programs.
Axon told NPR on Thursday that democratic control is needed to determine how the technology will be used.
The board had the opportunity to reflect on the ethical framework, "said Wager.
Axon's next meeting with the Ethics Committee is scheduled for September.