Google’s Senior Vice President, Kent Walker mentioned at the very end of a blog post that they would no longer be selling their facial recognition technology stating that the technology is powerful, and could be easily abused in the wrong hands. What is most puzzling, however, is that the statement was hidden at the end of a blog post about how AI based Health Clinics can benefit Asia.
There has been quite some pressure in the technology industry to put up strong policies against facial recognition and the commercialisation and distribution of the same. This pressure was first abided by Microsoft when they promised to put stricter policies in place and asked fellow major IT companies to do the same in their own way.
“Facial recognition technology has benefits in areas like new assistive technologies and tools to help find missing persons, with more promising applications on the horizon,” Walker wrote. “However, 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. 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.”
Even Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, told the Washington Post in a statement concerning AI, that it is a power which can prove extremely dangerous in the wrong hands even more dangerous than Nuclear power.
“I think tech has to realize it just can’t build it and then fix it. I think that doesn’t work. “
The ACLU, which is a company that harshly criticises facial recognition against racial profiling and privacy concerns applauded this decision by Google but stand firm to their decision of keeping the pressure on Google and the rest of the tech giants. This is after the company criticised Amazon’s new Rekognition software, which uses facial recognition in their new doorbell which identifies suspicious people.
“We will continue to put Google’s feet to the fire to make sure it doesn’t build or sell a face surveillance product that violates civil and human rights,” ACLU tech director Nicole Ozer said in a statement. “We also renew our call on Amazon and Microsoft to not provide dangerous face surveillance to the government. Companies have a responsibility to make sure their products can’t be used to attack communities and harm civil rights and liberties — it’s past time all companies own up to that responsibility.”
With all the Ethical questions being raised and the pressure surmounting, tech companies are slowly seeing how commercialisation and distribution of Facial Recognition technology can have disastrous consequences in the wrong hands. Some seek to keep the services private to their own needs. Others seek to hand these technologies only to trusted or trustworthy channels. Others yet, seek to control where and how these technologies can and cannot be used. All the giants, however, rally together for the sake of ethical usage and balance of power.