Over the course of four days last week, three of America’s largest technology companies — IBM, Amazon and Microsoft — announced sweeping restrictions on their sale of facial recognition tools and called for federal regulation amid protests across the United States against police violence and racial profiling.
In terms of headlines, it was a symbolic shift for the industry. Researchers and civil liberties groups who have been calling for strict controls or outright bans on the technology for years are celebrating, although cautiously.
They doubt, however, that much has changed. The careful wording of the public pledges leaves plenty of room for oppressive uses of the technology, which exacerbate human biases and infringe on people’s constitutional freedoms, critics say.
“It shows that organizing and socially informed research works,” said Meredith Whittaker, co-founder of the AI Now Institute, which researches the social implications of artificial intelligence. “But do I