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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

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Beto plans Texas comeback in governor's race

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke speaks during the Georgetown to Austin March for Democracy rally on July 31, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is preparing to run for governor of Texas in 2022, with an announcement expected later this year, Texas political operatives tell Axios.

Why it matters: O'Rourke's entry would give Democrats a high-profile candidate with a national fundraising network to challenge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott — and give O’Rourke, a former three-term congressman from El Paso and 2020 presidential candidate and voting rights activist, a path to a political comeback.

Texas doctor says he performed an abortion in violation of state law

Pro-choice protesters march down Congress Avenue and back to the Texas state capitol in Austin, Texas, in July 2021. Photo: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

A Texas doctor disclosed in an op-ed in the Washington Post on Saturday that he has performed an abortion in violation of the state's restrictive new abortion law, which effectively bans the procedure after six weeks.

Why it matters: Alan Braid's op-ed is a direct disclosure that will very likely result in legal action, thereby setting it up as a potential test case for how the abortion ban will be litigated, notes the New York Times.

Mike Allen, author of AM
4 hours ago - Technology

Axios interview: Facebook to try for more transparency

Nick Clegg last year. Photo: Matthew Sobocinski/USA Today via Reuters

Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs, tells me the company will try to provide more data to outside researchers to scrutinize the health of activity on Facebook and Instagram, following The Wall Street Journal's brutal look at internal documents.

Driving the news: Clegg didn't say that in his public response to the series. So I called him to push for what Facebook will actually do differently given the new dangers raised by The Journal.