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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser, Axios

IBM is facing a backlash after NBC News reported the company is using a set of Flickr images to help train a facial recognition system.

Why it matters: Although the photos in question were shared under a Creative Commons license, many photographers note they never imagined their images would be used in this way. Furthermore, the people shown in the images didn't consent to anything.

IBM defended its project as an effort to improve the accuracy of facial recognition and said it was being used for research, rather than commercial purposes. They said...

"IBM has been committed to building responsible, fair and trusted technologies for more than a century and believes it is critical to strive for fairness and accuracy in facial recognition."
"We take the privacy of individuals very seriously and have taken great care to comply with privacy principles, including limiting the Diversity in Faces dataset to publicly available image annotations and limiting the access of the dataset to verified researchers."

Flashback: IBM publicly said it selected a sampled subset of 1 million images from Yahoo's Flickr dataset when it first launched this project.

Community technologist Jessamyn West, who publicly criticized IBM for using 15 of her images, told Axios that she's concerned about the way permissions granted in one context are being used to do something entirely different.

"I'm less concerned with my own photo being used in some weird way by IBM but by what I see as 'mission creep' where these things start out as one thing and turn into another."

In response, IBM said those looking to opt out of the project, whether photographers or subjects, can do so here.

Go deeper: IBM release statements on the facial recognition AI project

Go deeper

U.S. ambassador to Russia will return home briefly: State Department

John Sullivan, U.S. Ambassador to Russia, during a briefing in Moscow in 2015. Photo: Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS via Getty Images

The State Department said Monday that the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, will now be returning to the United States this week before returning to Moscow "in the coming weeks."

Why this matters: The statement, from a State Department spokesperson, comes just hours after Axios reported that Sullivan had indicated he intended to stand his ground and stay in Russia after the Kremlin “advised” him to return home to talk with his team.

Scoop: Leaked Ukraine memo reveals scope of Russia's aggression

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits a military exposition in Sevastopol, Crimea, in Jan. 2020. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russia has been holding last-minute military exercises near commercial shipping lanes in the Black Sea that threaten to strangle Ukraine's economy, according to an internal document from Ukraine's ministry of defense reviewed by Axios.

Why it matters: With the eyes of the world on the massive buildup of troops in eastern Ukraine, the leaked memo shows Russian forces escalating their presence on all sides of the Ukrainian border.

Elon Musk: Autopilot feature wasn't enabled in fatal Texas crash

Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Monday that "data logs recovered so far" show the car's Autopilot feature was not enabled — and it did not have access to "full self-driving mode" — in the deadly crash in Texas involving the company's electric vehicle.

Background: Local investigators said they believed the car was operating without anyone in the driver's seat. At the time of death, one man was in the passenger seat, while another was in the rear seat, KPRC 2 reports.