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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

Teachers across the U.S. protest laws restricting racism lessons

Thousands of teachers and other educators held protests across the U.S. Saturday against the actions of "at least 15 Republican-led states" that aim to restrict teaching about racism in class, the Washington Post reports.

Driving the news: There were demonstrations in at least 22 cities for the "Day of Action" to raise awareness about moves to limit students' exposure to critical race theory, which links racial discrimination to the nation's foundations and legal system, per Axios' Russell Contreras.

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

Lawsuit challenging Houston Methodist's COVID vaccine mandate dismissed

Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

A federal judge on Saturday dismissed a lawsuit brought by 117 Houston Methodist staff over the hospital's policy requiring all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Why it matters: This is the first federal court ruling on a coronavirus vaccine mandate. Attorney Jared Woodfill, representing the plaintiffs, told KHOU 11 it's "the first battle in a long fight," as he vowed to file another lawsuit soon.

G7 leaders to announce plan to phase out gasoline cars

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks next to President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron at the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, England, on Saturday. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

G7 leaders are set to outline Sunday a range of measures to tackle climate change, including "ending almost all direct government support" for fossil fuels and phasing out gasoline and diesel cars.

Driving the news: The plan was outlined in a British government announcement Saturday, which states that the leaders will also agree to halting "all unabated coal as soon as possible."