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Security cameras at a self-storage facility in California. Photo: James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images

Brian Brackeen, CEO of facial-recognition company Kairos, said in an op-ed this week that police use of the technology is "irresponsible and dangerous."

The big picture: Last month, controversy erupted around news that at least two police departments have deployed or tested Amazon's Rekognition platform. Facial-recognition algorithms have been shown to be less accurate at identifying people of color, often because their images are underrepresented in the datasets that algorithms are trained on.

The details: This isn't the first time that Brackeen has spoken out against biased facial recognition. He tells Axios he has been approached by multiple police departments, Axon (the body-camera company formerly known as Taser) and the CIA's VC arm, but that Kairos declined to partner with any of them.

"As the black chief executive of a software company developing facial recognition services, I have a personal connection to the technology, both culturally and socially."
— Brian Brackeen, CEO of Kairos, in the op-ed

But, but, but: By taking itself out of the running, Kairos is guaranteeing that police won't have access to its potentially less-biased platform. Whatever company gets the contract instead may not have the same focus on equality.

P.S.: Kairos is in the midst of an initial coin offering — not a bad time to attract popular and media attention. But Brackeen told Axios the op-ed's timing was unrelated to his company's fundraising.

What's next: Kairos is compiling a labeled database of a wide range of faces that can be used to train algorithms to recognize all kinds of people, Brackeen said, and plans to release it next year for free. He hopes the dataset could also be used to create a benchmark for testing others' algorithms for bias.

Go deeper:

  • Half of Americans are in police face databases, according to this 2016 report from Georgetown Law's Center on Privacy and Technology
  • More on Amazon's Rekognition software from The New York Times
  • IBM releases image data to improve facial recognition AI (Axios)

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that the Orlando Police Department tested Amazon’s Rekognition technology internally but did not deploy it.

Go deeper

1 dead as severe storms pummel the South

A tree that fell on a home carport damaged a vehicle during a storm in Central, Louisiana. No injuries were reported, according to Central Fire Department. Photo: Central Fire Department/Twitter

Strong storms lashed the South early Saturday, spawning at least one tornado and unleashing powerful winds and hail. And forecasters warned more severe weather was expected to hit parts of the region in the coming hours.

Details: Thousands of customers lost power in Florida, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana, according to tracking site poweroutage.us. An F3 tornado that hit St Landry Parish, Louisiana, killed one person and wounded seven others.

Scoop: Biden eyes Russia adviser criticized as soft on Kremlin

Photo: Alexander Shcherbak\TASS via Getty Images

President Biden is considering appointing Matthew Rojansky, head of the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute, as Russia director on the National Security Council, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Why it matters: Rojansky has been praised for his scholarship on Russia and is frequently cited in U.S. media for his expert commentary. But his work has drawn criticism — including in a 2018 open letter from Ukrainian alumni of Kennan that blasted the think tank he runs as an "unwitting tool of Russia’s political interference."

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases hold steady at 65,000 per day — CDC declares racism "a serious public health threat" — WHO official: Brazil is dealing with "raging inferno" of a COVID outbreak.
  2. Vaccines: America may be close to hitting a vaccine wall — Pfizer asks FDA to expand COVID vaccine authorization to adolescents — CDC says Johnson & Johnson vaccine supply will drop 80% next week.
  3. Economy: Treasury says over 156 million stimulus payments sent out since March — More government spending expected as IMF projects 6% global GDP growth.
  4. Politics: Supreme Court ends California's coronavirus restrictions on home religious meetings.
  5. World: Iran tightens COVID restrictions amid fourth wave of pandemic.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.